The Italian foreign policy in 1938-1939-1940 was the most expansive and aggressive Italy has experienced since the fall of the Roman empire. The Italian leader Mussolini -after the conquest of Ethiopia and the creation of the "Italian Empire" in 1936- sent Italian troops into Spain to support Franco Falangism and in 1939 annexed Albania to the kingdom of Italy (read http://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2016/11/albanias-unification-to-italy-in-1939.html)...and -of course- we all know that after the creation of the "Axis" he attacked France in June 1940, pushing Italy into WW2 (and in this way condemning his "Italia fascista" to an embrace with Hitler's Germany, that finished in a terrible & complete disaster in a few years).
In those years Mussolini tried to gain control of some Latin American countries with the local fascist party and Italian communities, like in Uruguay & Brasil (read for Sao Paulo: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:uR83TGVTgJcJ:www.revistas2.uepg.br/index.php/rhr/article/download/2105/1586+&cd=14&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us) and -with the Nazi Germans- in Guatemala, but without success. In Brazil the "Integralism party" of Plínio Salgado (who admired Mussolini's fascism) nearly conquered the power in 1938, when he had the support of nearly one million brazilians: the Integralists made an attempt at achieving power, by attacking the Guanabara Palace (of Brazil's president), but police and army troops arrived at the last minute, and the ensuing gunfight ended with around twenty casualties (read www.vincenzofratta.it/attachments/article/7/Rec_StoriainRetemag2012.pdf) and with the following destruction of the fascism in Brazil. In Argentina, after the military success of Fascist Italy in Abyssinia, Fascist sympathizers founded a so called "Comité Pro-Italia" that produced a petition against the sanctions of the League of Nations and campaigned for the boycott of British merchandise. This pro-Fascist party could draw considerable support from the ranks of the church, the military -like Peron- and the high society of Buenos Aires): in 1938 of half a million ‘Italians’ living in the capital, there were more than 2.500 active Fascists (read https://journals.openedition.org/amnis/2021?lang=es)
Indeed Mussolini requested in 1939 from Franco a territory in Spanish Guinea Equatorial (and a military "base" in Minorca) as a compensation for his help during the Spanish civil war, but also here he got a complete refusal. He also tried to get a kind of protectorate in Afghanistan and Yemen (read https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2015/07/italian-tentative-to-control-influence.html) and strongly promoted the Italian influence in Egypt and Palestine (read https://researchomnia.blogspot.com/2016/05/italian-propaganda-in-egypt-and.html).
But it was with France that Mussolini showed his foreign policy more aggressively, requesting Tunisia, French Somalia and the Italian irredentism-requested Corsica & Nizza/Savoya. These aspirations together with Malta from the United Kingdom were at the center of the Italian declaration of war in June 1940 against the Allies. But we have to remember that Italian irredentism wanted also the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia and Corfu with the Ionian islands of Greece. Not only that, but Mussolini wanted to control also the Suez canal and so menaced Sudan and Egypt (in order to unite in the future his empire in the Horn of Africa with Italian Libya): his foreigh minister Ciano studied the possibility of creating a Sinai under Italian rule.
As can be easily imagined, those years were extremely active for the Italian foreign policy, while at the same time Italy had to face the problem of the Brenner defense against a possible attack from Nazi Germany: a huge amount of money was spent by the Italians to create the so called "Vallo Alpino" (that sadly proved to be not useful in September 1943).
And we have also to remember that Mussolini supported in the late 1930s the Pavelic's "Ustascia" in Croatia, in order to dismember Yugoslavia (as happened in 1941) and possibly assimilate into the kingdom of Italy that region as was done with Albania: read http://brunodam.blog.kataweb.it/2015/06/01/quando-la-croazia-sembrava-poter-essere-italiana/. Furthermore, he planned a possible attack on Switzerland -together with Germany- in order to unite to Italy the Ticino & Grigioni Cantons.
Last but not least, starting from 1939 and after annexing Albania, Mussolini struggled to exert a dominant influence on the right-hand circles of emigration from Georgia. The Italian government also granted the Georgian fascist organizations in Berlin, Prague and Warsaw the opportunity to convene a congress in the eternal city: in the case of the conquest of the Caucasus by the armed forces of the Axis, he intended to place the prince Irakli Bagrationi-Moukhranéli -against Hitler's wishes- on the throne of this new nation, supported by the Georgian monarchist Chalva Maglakelidzé. This Georgian politician declared in 1940 in the Italian-sponsored journal "Kartlossi" (read https://books.google.com/books?id=0Ew8CwAAQBAJ&pg=PT220&lpg=PT220&dq=Chalva+Maglakelidz%C3%A9&source=bl&ots=5_3QDhmHWE&sig=xh3E85jNPrsnB8UPvoaioA-a4dQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjNwoSbsfzaAhXxkOAKHRPrCWwQ6AEIUzAK#v=onepage&q=Chalva%20Maglakelidz%C3%A9&f=false ), about the return to independence of Georgia with the possible introduction of the monarchy & the creation of a fascist and corporatist state, on the model of Mussolini's Italy.
Eastern Accords and Suez Canal
Italian ships amounted to 20% of traffic across Canal, second only to British, but no Italian was member of Suez Canal Company.
British stated Canal was essential mean of communication between UK and India as well as Italy and Italian colonies, fearing that Italy would seek co-responsibility in canal defence.
Annex 8 was only reaffirmation of 1888 Constantinople Convention.
Convention of Constantinople
Article I, guaranteeing passage to all ships during war and peace.
Article X allowed the Khedive to take measures for "the defence of Egypt and the maintenance of public order" .
The latter clause was used by the British in WW2 and by Egypt against Israel after 1948.
At the beginning of WW1, Egypt declared Canal would be open to ships of all nations, but Britain converted occupation into Protectorate, and barred Canal access to enemy ships.
Libya and Egypt
According to Easter Accords, Italy to reduce garrisons in Libya.
Due to Spanish crisis and Italian involvement, Mussolini ordered to double garrison in Libya, while some British troops were moved from Palestine to Egypt.
After Munich agreement, Mussolini appeared as European mediator.
Accords ratified Nov 16, 1938, after withdrawal of Italian volunteers from Spain.
Mussolini said to Ciano that Italian policy does not change: in Europe, Axis fundamental; in Mediterranean, collaboration with UK as long as possible;
France is out, due to specific Italian claims.
Italians encouraged Turks to seize port of Alexandretta, despite later French recognition of Italian Empire.
Ciano spoke about Italian aspirations on Tunisia, Nice, Savoy, Corsica, Djibuti.
Mussolini-Laval agreements denounced
Impero and military planning
Nov 1938: Iraq, S. Arabia, Egypt recognised Italian Empire.
Italian East Africa unable to support large scale attack against Sudan and Egypt.
In case of war, defensive strategy on Tunisian border and offensive from Cyrenaica towards Egypt.
Libya depended on support from the sea, as it was surrounded from three sides.
Little could be done in Mediterranean against UK bases in Gibraltar, Egypt, Cyprus, Malta.
Mussolini’s appetite shifted towards Balkans by taking advantage of Hitler’s evident intention to crush Poland.
Apr 1939 Italian occupation and annexation of Albania and preparation of invasion of Greece.
Mass emigration of new settlers to Libya.
Jul 1935: fascism ackowledged existence of races and their differences and hierarchy, but Italy did not claim segregation and racial hatred.
May 1936 proclamation of Empire: Fascism to defend racial prestige and prevent madamismo - settlers living more uxorio with indigenous women. The “madamas” were a colonial adaptation of contractual marriages or concubinage. On a higher level than prostitutes but the relationship was always one of “master – slave”.
Jan 1937: Italians in Empire – full and absolute separation of races.
Racial laws in Italian East Africa.
1938 Balbo’s proposal to grant full Italian citizenship to Libyans opposed by Fascist hierarchies.
Informazione Diplomatica n. 18
While other powers were able to rule colonies through small number of officials, Italy obliged to send settlers to Libya and Eastern Africa.
To prevent catastrophic creation of bastard race not only through laws, but also through racial consciousness.
Sort of apartheid established in East Africa.
In Libya Balbo, though still racist, differed from Mussolini.
Low opinion of Black in Fezzan.
Inhabitants of coast viewed as descendants of great ancient civilization.
Balbo aware of nationalist revolt outlook. He showed respect for religious customs and collaborated with local elite.
Muslim population to elevate morally and socially to be integrated in Fascist schemes.
Libyans could be appointed podestà of local communities, but not of mixed ones.
Balbo’s policy defeated. In 1939 Libyans could not even touch Italian women – violation of racial prestige.
Available sources do not confirm theory according to which Mussolini implemented racial laws in Oct 1938 to please Arabs.
Sept 1938: Dux personally drafted “Declaration of Race”: Grand Council does not exclude possibility of allowing free and controlled immigration of European Jews into some areas of Ethiopia. Ciano added that Italy had to avoid emigration of Jews to Palestine.
Anti-Semitism was intended only for Jewish element.
Apr 7, 1939: occupation.
Half population of Albania was Muslim.
Ciano said they would be happy to benefit from Italian civilization.
Muslims in the world criticised annexation: King of Egypt had Albanian origins, Tunisian and Syrian nationalists ridiculed Mussolini, who claimed to be protector of Islam, while conquering Muslim populations.
Germany made no claims to Arab territory!
British and French Moves in Middle East
Late 1938-early 1939:
UK managed to quell Arab revolt through combination of force, encouragement of intra-Arab rivalries and policy of appeasement (restriction of Jewish immigration to Palestine).
France handed Syrian coastal district of Alexandretta to Turkey to ensure Turkish goodwill in case of European war.
French PM Daladier visited Tunisia in Jan 1939 and met local leaders, recalling Tunisians died in WW1.
Mar 1939: Daladier’s speech in Algeria honouring attachment of Muslims to France.
Italian Prestige in Middle East
Italy eclipsed by Nazi Germany.
In Egypt Italy’s sympathisers restricted to extreme right wing Young Egypt.
Anti-British Egyptian military in touch with Italians:
Egypt to adopt racial policy to banish coloured elements to Sudan.
Egypt to make sure that Italy had no intention of conquest.
May 1940: Egyptian Premier expressed sympathy with Italy’s claims on Tunisia and administration of Suez Canal.
British put pressure on King to replace Premier and Chief of General Staff.
Egyptian lower classes did not feel sympathy for Italy: colonisation of Libya and Albania as evidence of domination on Islam.
Most Arab countries chose to support Britain and France.
Egypt and Iraq severed diplomatic relations with Germany.
Anti-British press in Palestine moderated tones towards UK and denounced Nazi racial ideology.
Italy’s decision not to join war applauded.
1939: Dux convinced that Italy could never become world power if confined in Mediterranean.
Italy to break Mediterranean prison and march to Oceans.
Decisions vague and broad: which ocean should Italy march on?
However, Dux hoped war would not break out before 1942-43.
Middle East as war theatre where Dux tried to enlarge Italian possessions.
De Felice – Arab policies only central to Mussolini’strategy after intervention in war.
Anglo-Saxon historiography: Middle Eastern ambitions as logical outcome of previous policies in new warfare conditions – colonial stability now far less important.
Once French Empire out of game (with armistice, France had kept colonies), only way for Italy to enlarge possessions was either at British expense, or independent Arab States.
Feb 1940: Dux confident allies would lose war.
Need for Italy to gain access to open seas – only then will Italy be a real empire.
Mar: allied blockade of German coal, on which Italy depended.
Apr 2: Dux told his ministers he wanted to join war with Germany, but with her own aims:
Access to oceans, but he did not specify which one.
Unlike 1915, war started without specifying definite territorial compensations.
Enlarging Albania at expense of Jugoslavia.
Protectorate over Greece, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco – French availability to talk on Algeria and Tunisia too late.
Necessity to reach written agreement with Hitler on Italy’s conditions to enter war.
Jun 10, 1940 – Italy’s entrance into war without any promise of territorial compensation from Germany.
Mussolini: only territories conquered by Italian arms were certain to come under Italian rule.
Order to attack France on Jun 15, hoping to capture Nice, Corsica, Tunisia.
Claims against Britain
Ciano said to Ribbentrop that from UK Italy would claim:
Dismantling of British bases in Mediterranean;
Replace of Britain in Sudan and Egypt;
Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to become independent and sign mutual assistance treaties with Italy.
Hitler: Mediterranean and Adriatic belong to historical Italian sphere of influence, but too much appetite might induce French navy to join British.
Franco-Italian armistice signed Jun 24 without any significant battle.
Plans for Post-war Middle East
War soon to be won.
Focus not on military plans to secure victory, but on geo-political plans for post-war period
Huge African Empire and wide zone of influence in Middle East
Sudan to come under direct Italian control, as indispensable link between North ad East Africa.
Egypt would accept loss of nominal control on Sudan in return for full independence from UK and some territorial expansion.
Sinai to be ceded to Italy, in order to be able to exercise influence on Palestine and Arabian Peninsula.
Suez Canal to be possessed by Italy, at least Eastern shores.
Egypt to remain independent, as important Muslim country: attempt to annex Egypt would cause negative repercussions in colonies and Arab world.
Egypt would have no choice but to collaborate with Italy, as it would be surrounded by Italian territories.
Whole Africa turned into German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese sphere of influence, except independent Egypt and South Africa.
Total removal of Belgium.
Nearly total removal of Britain and France.
Small African territory to be set aside for Jews of Europe.
Italy to gain Horn, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Northern Chad, and Tunisia in order to secure access to Indian and Atlantic Ocean, as well as satisfy economic needs.
Claim for French and British territories as implementation of colonial compensations promised in Treaty of London 1915.
Claim on Chad due to Ottoman declaration 1880, according to which Libyan territory extended all the way to Lake Chad.
Claims on Tunisia due to assertion that before 1881 the country had been dominated by Italians, who had turned it into blossoming garden.
Other Claims for territorial control
Palestine & Transjordan.
Holy Land's Transjordan and Palestine to be united in federated monarchy: if not the Italian king, choice among Arab princes. Only Sephardic Jews (Spanish origins) to be incorporated. Jewish emigration stopped, undesirable elements to be expelled and leave room for Arabs, better than Christians. Jewish education system to be de-Zionised.
Syria & Lebanon. Syria to become independent republic, giving complete autonomy to region of Druzes and Alawites. Independence subordinate to alliance with Italy, Italian economic domination, Italian military bases, preferential status of Italian language in schools and protection of Christian minorities. Lebanon to receive only mandate-style independence, with Italian commissioner ruling the country. Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, Sinai to form "Levant State" with a structure like Switzerland and ethnically homogeneous cantons.Everything under Italian mandate
Cyprus. Cyprus under Roman, Venetian, and Genoan domination for 600 years. Italy fought to liberate world from British domination of seas. Three possibilities for Cyprus 1) Direct Italian domination (preferred) 2) Autonomy within Italian empire 3) Union with Greece - this only two weeks before invasion of Greece
Iraq.Iraq out of Italian zone of influence, as defined by Hitler. In Sept Foreign Ministry recommended Iraq to remain independent and sign mutual defence pact with Italy. Ethnically disunited Iraq perceived as weak country surrounded by enemies. Strong independent Iraq to serve Italian interests. Extension of Iraqi borders at expense of Iran, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey. In return of military protection, Italy to be given oil concessions at that time held by Iraq Petroleum Company.
Arabian Peninsula & French Somalia. Djibuti under total Italian control. Arabian penibsula: A) Aden under direct Italian control B) Bahrain under direct Italian control C) Yemen and Saudi Arabia independent D) Oman to become Italian protectorate