12 SEPTEMBER 1940, Page 2

Italian Demands on Syria

Much as the Vichy Government desires to keep on good terms with Germany, its affability does not extend in the same way to Italy, and it must feel uneasy at her attempts to secure bloodless victories in Syria. The Italian Commission now in Syria is making exorbitant demands, adding further to the dis- comfiture of the French. It calls for the immediate taking over of all Syrian air-bases and the total demobilisation of the French Colonial Army and the repatriation of the men. If this demand should be accepted two urgent considerations would at once present themselves. Threats of Italian intervention are causing profound unrest in Syria, and the question arises as to who will keep order if the French divest themselves of military power. The Italians? That would present not only this country, but also Turkey with an entirely new problem. But if Italian designs for the immediate present are less far-reaching, the proposal to take over the air-bases is sufficiently serious. Great Britain had to take stern measures to prevent the French Fleet from falling into enemy hands, and there is no reason why our action should be less drastic if the Syrian Government agreed to surrender French aeroplanes on Syrian aerodromes for use against our Army in the Middle East. The Vichy Government will do well to remember that if it puts no limits to its willingness to surrender it will thrust the necessity of further action upon Great Britain, and perhaps Turkey, if their vital interests are threatened.