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Italo-Turkish War - 1911 - Path to War

The Italian Government repeatedly made it evident that they had no desire to force matters. But when the French column marched on Fez, and Germany despatched the warship Panther to Agadir (July 1, 1911), the Italians were spurred to action. For not only did the liquidation of Moroccan affairs point logically to a solution of the pending Tripolitan question, but in responsible quarters in Italy it was widely believed that if Italy did not occupy Tripoli, Germany would do so. In recent years Germany had shown a singular interest in Tripolitana. A German Consulate was newly established at Tripoli, and a German line of steamers now made the city a regular port of call; German capital was being invested in local enterprises, and towards the end of the spring of 1911, the Italians learned that a German group was on the eve of securing considerable concessions from the Ottoman Government, which would have given the German interests essential commercial advantages in Tripoli which had hitherto been refused to Italians.

The Italian Cabinet understood only too well the methods of German Interessenpolitik, which created political capital out of commercial enterprise. Italians throughout the peninsula believed that the hour had come for Italy to pursue a vigorous policy in North Africa. The modification of the status quo in the Mediterranean, by French occupation of Morocco, stipulated by Lord Salisbury twenty years before, as a sine qua non, had at last occurred. The assent of the Powers had been secured. Italy, therefore, felt justified in seizing the occasion to vindicate her claims to Tripolitana and Cyrenaica.

Italian grievances against Turkish rule in Tripolitana were numerous. Italians were, so it was alleged, hostilely treated by Turkish officials. The new Young Turk regime had made matters worse rather than better. Insults to the Italian flag; the forcible abduction and conversion to Islamism of a young Italian working girl; obstacles to commercial development; obstruction and bad faith were charged.

On July 29, 1911, the Italian Government instructed its representatives abroad that, unless there was an improvement in their relations with Turkey regarding Tripoli, Italy would take action. Negotiations dragged on. Italy, it cannot be denied, desired no other solution than one which would give her complete control of Tripolitana. The Porte made belated concessions when it was realised that Italy was in earnest. Wide commercial privileges were suggested. Italy refused these offers. On September 22, an anti-Italian demonstration took place in Constantinople. The next day Italian reservists of the class of 1888 were called to the colors. Then the news reached Rome that a Turkish vessel, laden with arms and munitions, was due to arrive at Tripoli. On September 25, the Italian Charge d'Affaires at Constantinople presented an emphatic Note to the Porte, warning Turkey that its attitude was unfriendly, and that the shipment of arms and supplies to Tripoli at such a time could only be interpreted as a hostile act. Three days later, on September 28, the Italians delivered an ultimatum wherein, after setting forth Italy's grievances, it was stated: The Italian Government, therefore, finding itself forced to safeguard its dignity and its interests, has decided to proceed to the military occupation of Tripoli and Cyrenaica. This solution is the only one which Italy can accept, and the Italian Government relies upon the Imperial Government giving such orders as may prevent any opposition on the part of the Ottoman representatives, in order that all necessary measures may be effected without difficulty."

Suddenly, on September 27, 1911, and, so far as the world of bystanders was concerned, with no adequate provocation, Italy hurled an ultimatum at Turkey and without waiting for an answer dispatched an armament to Tripoli. After successfully occupying the insignificant and widely The Turcoscattered coast towns, the Italian army proceeded to penetrate Italian warto the interior and straightway encountered enormous difficulties. Not only did the Arabs, abetted to the best of their ability by the Turks, contest every foot of ground, but, more effectively than any human enemies, the heat, sand, and utter desolation of the country conspired to thwart the Italian advance. Irritated by the loss of men and treasure, the Italian government, in the hope of bringing the Turks to terms, ordered its navy to attack them nearer home.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:28:15 ZULU