How Italy contributes to destabilizing the Middle East by selling submarines to Qatar
Italy sold two minisub marines to the Qatari Navy for sea surveillance and attack activities in the Persian Gulf. It is the last deal between the Italian military-industrial complex with the armed forces of the Arab petrol-emirate, the latest unreliable partner of the European Union and the United States of America after Turkey.
“From the analysis of the government authorizations for the export of weapons made in Italy, it is clear that in 2019 the company M23 was awarded the license for 2 midget submarines worth 190 million euros: they are mini-submarines that could be used also for raids and attacks on merchant ships and oil tankers,” denounces Giorgio Beretta, analyst of the Italian Peace and Disarmament Network.
The company M23 with headquarters in Ciserano, Bergamo province of Northern Italy, is a new entry into the stainless war market: operational since June 2018, its corporate purpose is the “design, construction and sale of underwater vehicles and in particular of submarines, propulsion equipment, and hulls “. M23 has about twenty employees and is financially linked to two other companies with registered offices in Bergamo, SPH (industrial consulting company) and GSE Trieste (shipbuilding sector).
President of M23 is Bruno Peracchi, general managers Guido Santi, Carlo Gelfo and Toufic Abi Fadel, the latter former manager of the Qatar Development Bank and Qatar First Bank LLC, today head of the legal office of Barzan Holdings, the financial safe from which the Ministry of Defense of Qatar draws funding for the research, development, production, and sale of new weapon systems and to strengthen the military capabilities of the national armed forces. For the record, on 24 January 2020, the CEO of Fincantieri Giuseppe Bono and the president of Barzan Holding Nasser Al Naimi signed a cooperation agreement given the design and construction of new infrastructures and boats of the emirate’s Navy and the supply of surface warfare units and submarines to be built in the Muggiano, La Spezia factories.
The presence on the board of M23 Srl of the Qatari Toufic Abi Fadel is consequential to the investment in the Bergamo-based company by Al Shamal 3 LLC, a company registered with the Chamber of Commerce of the emirate on 2 April 2019, with a share capital of just 100.0000 Qatari real (approximately € 22,500) and headquarters in the Doha offices of the well-known international business consulting holding PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Simultaneously with the entry of Al Shamal 3 LLC into the Bergamo-based company, the transfer of the business unit relating to the design and construction of mini-submarines from GSE Trieste to M23 was also carried out. Both transactions were authorized “with provisions” by the Council of Ministers of May 21, 2020, in the exercise of the special powers provided for by the so-called golden power with which the executive dictates specific conditions for the acquisition of equity investments in strategic companies for the country (defense and security sector, energy, transport, communications, etc.). Presenting the decree to the Council, the then President Giuseppe Conte and the Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini, still in office today.
In the specific case of the contract in Qatar, the shipyards of M23 Srl would be working on the construction of two “pocket submarines”, whose technical characteristics are top secret. To date, only the code with which they have been classified is known (Midget autonomous submarine P / N M232017023); presumably they are 23 meters long units, suitable to contain an extremely small crew of 2-3 people.
Military analyst H.I. Sutton, founder of the specialized site Covert Shores, dedicated a long article entitled “Italy’s Secretive Submarine Deal with Qatar: New Intelligence” to the two mini-submarines made in Italy. Sutton believes that the two units destined for the “Qatar fleet modernization and enhancement program” correspond to the model depicted in a slide projected during a hearing of the Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies on defense systems and technological research, held on last May 17 (the audition is visible at https://webtv.camera.it/evento/18152).
Presenting the slides was the president and CEO of C.A.B.I. Cattaneo S.p. A, Alberto Villa, who reported, in particular, the start of a collaboration with a third company for the construction of “two dwarf submarines, built for a foreign customer”. “The appearance of the submarine, with a smooth hull, shoulder-mounted seaplanes, and no sail seems to confirm what observers suspect, namely that it is the model made by M23 Srl”, writes H.I. Sutton. “The latter is a spin-off company of the military sector which, with the shipyards GSE Trieste, builders of submarines, shares a stable food in Ciserano, Bergamo, about a hundred kilometers away from the industrial hub of Milan where C.A.B.I. is based, Cattaneo. The submarine that appears in the presentation of the CEO of C.A.B.I. looks a lot like the only GSE Trieste line, designed in 2017 “.
According to the military analyst, the two mini-submarines destined for Qatar will each be armed with two torpedoes and will have “a considerable operational capacity for the Special Forces”. “GSE Triste stands for Giunio Santi Engineering, in memory of its namesake founder, a naval engineer,” adds Sutton. “In the past, GSE Srl was called Maritalia. The history of Santi’s projects is full of ingenuity. In the 1980s he was building a propulsion system for mini-submarines under the Maritalia brand.
The best known of these divers was the 3GST9, just 9.5 meters long and very similar to the appearance of a fish, which caught the general attention as a possible means of transport for the special forces. In 2000 Giulio Santi’s company took the name of GSE Trieste and devoted itself primarily to the construction of luxury mini-subs for private customers, although a model for military purposes was designed, the Button 5.60 Dry Combat Submersible which was tested by US Navy “.
Much better known is the industrial-military history of the C.A.B.I. Cattaneo of Milan, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of underwater vehicles, marine engines, and heavy equipment for the transport of special forces teams. Among the war systems produced by the Lombard company, there are among others the MAS (armed torpedo boats) used by the Royal Navy during the First World War and the so-called “pigs” used by the special assault units commanded by Julio Valerio Borghese during the second World War.
With the new mini-divers sold by Italy, Qatar becomes the first Arab state in the Persian Gulf and the first member of the Gulf Cooperation Council to have a conventional diving component. An element that will help to further hyper militarized and destabilize the entire Middle East area.