Mussolini Worried over Nazi Designs on Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Irak, Libya

Reliable reports reaching here from Rome indicate a rift between Hitler and Mussolini over the thorny question of a division of spoils not yet secured in the Middle East.

Mussolini, his suspicions aroused by reports of German plans for a Pan-Arabic Federation, is reported to have forced a conference on the subject to ascertain what share if any would be allotted to Italy of the territory conquered by joint Axis forces. The conference is said to have taken place in Vienna early this month. The German delegates, as Mussolini knew in advance, were not of first-rate political importance, which was merely another way of saying to Mussolini that the inner councils of the Nazis were not particularly interested in the Middle East. The chief Nazi delegate was Hans Bohle, head of the department of the Foreign Office which organizes the services of Germans living abroad.

The Italian under-secretaries attending the conference learned that the Nazis had worked out plans for Pan-Arabia to include not only Palestine, Syria, Irak, Saudi-Arabia, Transjordan and Egypt but also Libya. Instead of dividing the Moslem lands between the Axis partners, the Germans apparently envisaged a sort of joint Axis administration of the whole bloc. Libya could not be given to Italy, Bohle argued, because the hatred of Italy engendered by Marshal Graziani’s ruthless massacres and deportations of Arabs from the Libyan coastline years ago still rankled in Arab breasts and would jeopardize the whole scheme of federation. Argument proving fruitless, the Italian delegates could do nothing but return home and report.

Mussolini then tried to ascertain through the Italian ambassador in Berlin whether the Bohle plan actually had been sanctioned by Hitler and Ribbentrop. He also wanted to know whether Frank Frobenius, notorious Nazi agent in the Middle East and German convert to Muhammadanism, with a Syrian wife, had been picked as viceroy of the Pan-Arabic federation. In neither of these two quests was Mussolini successful. The Nazis’ hierarchy answered neither yes or no. The situation at present is that the Nazis, by keeping Mussolini guessing, are also keeping him worried.