AUSTRIA’S imperial designs were extinguished by the outcome of the Great War. Italy’s, however, burned more brightly than ever. In an article in “Foreign Affair”s of June 15, 1923, Mr. Francesco Coppola says:
“Although Italy entered the war to combat the German attempt at hegemony and to wrest her historic frontiers and the control of the Adriatic from Austria, Italy’s traditional instinct really aimed to secure the indispensable modicum of security and freedom for expansion. It was for this reason that in the fundamental pact of alliance—the Treaty of London of April, 1915—Baron Sonnino stipulated for Italian colonial compensation in Africa in the event of a Franco-English partition of the German colonies, and for a corresponding zone in Southern Anatolia in the event of Allied acquisitions in the Levant. It was also for this reason that, later on, when he got wind of the complete plan of a tripartite division of the Ottoman Empire, (disloyally concluded in 1916 between France, Russia, and England without the knowledge of Italy, who had been fighting for more than a year by their side), he forced the Allies to reopen the question and to give an adequate share to Italy. The new treaty was discussed in April, 1917, between Sounino, Ribot and Lloyd George at St. Jean de Maurienne— from which it took its name—and was concluded and signed in London in August of the same year. While leaving Constantinople and the Caucasus, Armenia and part of the Anatolian coast of the Black Sea to Russia, Syria and Cilicia to France, and Mesopotamia and the protectorate over Arabia to England, this treaty assigned to Italy Southwestern Anatolia, the whole vilayet of Aidin with Smyrna, the whole vilayet of Konia with Adalia and a small part of the vilayet of Adana. But this very treaty contained the poison which was later to weaken it. Even before the war was over, the Allies hastened to avail themselves of the pretext of the absence of Russia’s signature to denounce the Treaty of St. Jean de Maurienne. Thus it came about that in the spring of 1919, Lloyd George, taking advantage of the weakness and temporary absence of Orlando, and violating the treaty of St. Jean de Maurienne and the armistice of Mudros, was able to arrange that Smyrna and the surrounding neighborhood be given to Greece. This was done with the full consent of Wilson, who, absolutely ignorant of European and Mediterranean affairs, blindly allowed himself to be governed by idealistic impulses and natural prejudices and with the approbation of Clemenceau, who was only too delighted to be able to ‘jouer un mauvais tour a l’ Italie.’ ”
Some of the Italian publicist’s conclusions are open to discussion, but his article sets forth the Italian frame of mind. There was much talk at Smyrna during the time of the Greek occupation in military circles and among the Levantines about Italian efforts to build a port farther to the south, in the vicinity of ancient Ephesus, that would become the chief harbor of Asia Minor and leave Smyrna to sink into insignificance. Many stories were told also of Italian efforts to win the affections of the Turk. In any case, it is certain that bands of Turkish marauders were in the habit of crossing the line from the Italian zone and of attacking and killing Greeks, after which they would take refuge with the Italians, where they could not be pursued.
The statement that the Turks received munitions and many arms from Italian shippers was persistently repeated, and has never been successfully refuted. The Italian viewpoint has already been explained. They considered that Smyrna had been promised them and that the Hellenic forces had been hurried there by their unfaithful allies to forestall their own landing. Italy can consider herself very fortunate that she did not beat the Greeks to Smyrna, for even with her own resources, so superior to those of King Constantine, she would have had her hands full.
But, the point is, her attitude contributed to the Greek defeat, the burning of Smyrna and the final destruction of the Christians of Asia Minor. Much valuable Italian property was destroyed as well as that of others. An aftermath of Italian antipathy to Greece may be seen in the bombardment of Corfu and the seizure of the island by the Italian fleet on August 31, 1923.
On the twenty-seventh of the same month, five Italian members of the commission for the delimitation of the frontier between Albania and Greece were waylaid on a lonely road in Albania and foully murdered by unknown persons. The demands of the Italian Government, including a payment of fifty million liras, were refused by the Greeks, on the ground that culpability had not been established. A request by Greece that the affair be referred to the League of Nations was refused and the island bombarded, with the result that sixty-five civilians, largely refugees, were killed or wounded. The indignation of the Italians is easily understandable, but a knowledge of preceding events is necessary to explain the wholly unnecessary bombardment of a Greek island on insufficient data and the killing or the wounding of sixty-five entirely innocent persons. As these latter were killed by cannon, they were not, of course, murdered.