Borsellino's Last Glance: 20 Years Later, We Know Anti-Mafia Hero Was Marked Man

Manfredi Borsellino still has many questions about how his father, anti-mob magistrate Paolo Borsellino, was allowed to die just three months after his colleague, and fellow crusading hero Giovanni Falcone had been killed. Now you can see it in his eyes.

The last known photo of Borsellino alive
The last known photo of Borsellino alive
Laura Anello

PALERMO - The picture dates to July 6, 1992, a Monday evening, when the countdown has already begun. The Italian anti-Mafia magistrate Paolo Borsellino, portrayed in the snapshot, looks like he can almost hear the ticking away of his final hours. In Palermo, the rumors had silently turned into certainty. Everyone whispers, and everyone knows that he is the latest dead man walking: the Mafia's next target.

The photograph was taken in the magistrate's house, in Villagrazia di Carini, a small town only few miles away from Palermo, during a quiet evening spent among friends. It was one of the last attempts at a normal existence, which for Borsellino had ended for good 44 day earlier, when his colleague and close friend, the magistrate Giovanni Falcone, had been killed by the Mafia in a huge blast along the motorway heading into Palermo, close to the town of Capaci.

And 13 days after this picture was taken, Borsellino, 52, was killed too, in another mammoth car-bomb blast, in a parking lot in Via D'Amelio, in the Sicilian capital. Today, 20 years later, Borsellino's son Manfredi shows the last picture taken of his father alive. Afterwords, the only images would be those showing a sheet covering his corpse.

In the final family photograph, a family friend sits between the magistrate and his wife, who hints at a smile. But Borsellino cannot seem to smile anymore, no peaceful moments remain. A sunken face, a cigarette in his lips, an anguished expression, he looks towards the camera with an almost absent expression.

Those days, the magistrate was feverishly writing his memoirs in a red agenda, which later disappeared. Those days, he was fighting against his boss, the attorney general Pietro Giammanco who had cut him out from the most important investigations and the management of the informants. Those days, according to the latest discoveries of a new investigation, Borsellino had gained knowledge of a negotiation between the State and the Mafia to stop the terrorist attacks. He saw it as a repugnant pact.

Good faith?

The previous investigation on Borsellino's death were reopened based on lingering suspicions that members of the Italian intelligence services might have played a role into the plot which lead to his assassination. Manfredi Borsellino calls the first investigation and trial "a joke."

The red herring of the investigations was proved, says Borsellino's son. "I want to believe that everyone has always been in good faith, and simply misled by the false results of the investigations," he says.

But the doubts, the investigations are all part of what came after. In this picture there is the pain before the epilogue, when the end is already written. On Sunday, July 19, after a last swim, Borsellino left the house in Villagrazia di Carini to go to his mother's house in Via D'Amelio, to bring her to an appointment with her cardiologist.

The doctor was supposed to visit her at home, but the previous day, mobsters had set fire to his car. When Borsellino arrived in Via D'Amelio, 100 kilograms of Trinitrotoluene in a Fiat 126 car exploded, ripping a crater in the street and shaking the surrounding buildings. Together with Borsellino, five agents of his round-the-clock police escort were also killed. The 24-year-old Emanuela Loi had just come back from her vacation in her hometown of Cagliari, Sardinia. Walter Cosina was a huge man from the north Italy city of Trieste, which he had voluntarily left to fight the crimes on the frontline in Palermo. Claudio Traina was on his first day of service with Borsellino. Fabio Lu Muli had asked his sister to remind him the words of the prayer Ave Maria, just a few days before.

Today, some people speak about martyrdom. Manfredi Borsellino smiles bitterly. "The last thing he wanted was to make a widow of his wife and orphans of his three still young children. But he knew that it could have happen. Instead, he really wanted his family and his escort not to be involved in an attempt on his life. He succeeded with the former, but sadly not with the latter," he said.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - La Stampa/Manfredi Borsellino

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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