Behind the appearance of European collaboration the relationship between London and Rome in the Middle East was, from the second half of the 1920s, already notably tense. Although it was only in the 1930s that the aggressive character of Mussolini’s antagonism with Britain became accentuated, their general positive relations in European affairs concealed the fact that the two countries’ long-term interests in the Middle East were destined to clash. The main reason for this was that throughout the interwar period they were working at cross-purposes in the region. On the one hand, the British government sought to safeguard its network of sea and air communications to the Far East, preserve its level of trade and commerce, and to secure cheap and accessible oil for the Royal Navy. This demanded maintenance of the status quo and opposition to any attempts to control the waterways through which British troops and materials were obliged to pass. On the other hand, the Fascist regime wanted to raise Italy to the rank of a great power by dominating the Mediterranean and Red Sea and by establishing spheres of influences in the Middle East and in the Arabian Peninsula.
This book examines four key aspects of relations between Britain and Italy in the Middle East in the interwar period:
Routledge, 2010. ISBN: 9780754669647
"The book is well written and engaging. Fiore is to be congratulated for an incisive, interesting, and readable diplomatic history of a vital period in European and world history."
— Professor Matthew Hughes, The English Historical Review
"Moving from cultural diplomacy and radio propaganda to arms sales and quasi-covert sponsorship of Britain's local opponents, Fiore’s work paints a comprehensive picture of a none-too-secret Anglo-Italian proxy war .... Fiore's achievement is to piece these processes together into a history of deepening bilateral competition beyond the fringes customarily applied to fascist imperial ambition."
— Professor Martin Thomas, Intelligence and National Security
"Fiore’s careful study, based on British and Italian archives, opens up a neglected area of Anglo-Italian imperial rivalry in the 1920s and 1930s .... His opening chapter on the Anglo-Italian covert war in the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea is particularly interesting in this regard."
— Professor David Reynolds, Contemporary European History
"The book makes extensive use of the Italian diplomatic and military archives to analyse events that remain largely unexplored and thereby shed exciting new light on the dynamics of Great Britain's relations with Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran throughout the 1920s and 1930s."
— Professor Fred Lawson, Journal of Arabian Studies
London: Routledge, 2010. ISBN: 9780754669647
On 22 July 1941, a month after the German invasion of the Soviet Union commenced, Hitler ordered the conquest of the Crimea. He attached special importance to the peninsula for two main reasons. The first was the need to seize the Caucasus oil fields, which accounted for 90 percent of all oil produced by the Soviet Union. However, before the offensive into the Caucasus could be launched, it was necessary to clear the Crimea and bring about the fall of Sevastopol, the Soviet Black Sea Fleet’s main naval base and a permanent threat to Axis shipping. The second reason was to protect the Ploesti oil fields in Romania from Crimea-based Soviet bombers.
Axis land forces reached the Crimea in October 1941 and overran most of it, but were unable to capture Sevastopol, one of the strongest fortifications in the world. While the original plan had attached very little importance to naval operations in the Black Sea, within a few weeks of the start of the campaign, the German High Command realised that undisputed control of that basin was enabling the Soviets to support ground units with heavy artillery fire, bring reinforcements to isolated garrisons and evacuate encircled units. Realising that sea-power was now critical to securing this objective, Hitler ordered that light naval forces be transferred to the Black Sea and prepared for combat without delay. However, at that time the German Navy did not have enough small boats or midget submarines at its disposal, and Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegmarine, asked the Italian Navy (Regia Marina) to supply them. During the period of alliance between Germany and Italy, "this was the only occasion in which the Germans ever spontaneously requested the military support of the Italians." They did so because they were aware that the Regia Marina’s light surface and underwater boats were superior to their own, and because they were impressed by the many successes achieved by these vessels against the British at Gibraltar, Suda Bay, Malta and Alexandria.
This book focuses on what is a surprisingly neglected area of the Second World War. Despite the strategic importance of the region, scholars have largely overlooked the German and Italian naval campaign in the Black Sea. The aim of this book is to enhance knowledge and understanding of the factors leading up to the Axis defeat in the East.
Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, forthcoming 2024.
Copyright © 2022 Massimiliano Fiore - All Rights Reserved. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the Rabdan Academy or the United Arab Emirates government.
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