Memorandum by the Ambassador in Italy (Long)2

In conversation with Mr. Suvich3 this morning I took up abruptly the subject of Abyssinia and their intentions. He immediately said they had no intentions and that all the rumors which were afloat were without any basis. I interrupted him to say that I had heard rumors for a long time to the effect that they had some hostile intention toward Abyssinia and that they had made military preparations and had sent reinforcements of troops; I had heard these reports from various sources and at various times and from sources some of which were partly authoritative, but that they had been only rumors and I was unable to form a definite opinion, but now that I had very recently heard that there had been large shipments of horses which had been bought in Canada for the purpose, of mules, of many small tanks, of large quantities of barbed wire, of guns and small bombs for airplane use, and various quantities of ammunition, I could not conceive why things of that character were being sent unless they had definite intentions. He replied that he had no idea of what had been sent but he made the most positive assurance that they had “absolutely no intention” of engaging upon any hostilities with Abyssinia.

He made a memorandum of what I said they had shipped and said that he would look it up for his own information. He added that they had no airplane force in Eritrea and that he himself had advised the Minister of Colonies to send some airplanes down there, but that that was purely for the ordinary purposes of defense. He said the Abyssinian people were of such type that they would not respect their Italian neighbors there unless the Italians were strong and prepared to defend themselves; that the process of defending Eritrea and Somaliland was a long process and that they had from time to time sent things there in the way of military equipment and intended to do so in the future but simply for defensive purpose and he reiterated that they had “absolutely no intention” of making hostile movement against Abyssinia.

Commenting upon the lack of airplanes, he mentioned the recent fight between Ibn Saud and the Imam of Yemen and said that the British had sent airplanes over immediately but that the Italians had not one single plane and were somewhat embarrassed. He said the British kept two squadrons at Aden.

In spite of all the rumors and the information which I have heard coming from the Assistant Military Attaché, from the Military Attaché, [Page 756] from the representative of the Associated Press and from various other persons one of whom is a confidential source of information from which I learned the details of the recent shipments—in spite of it I am constrained to accept at face value the very frank and apparently sincere statement of Mr. Suvich that the Italian Government has no present intention of attacking Abyssinia.

Breckinridge Long

  1. Transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in his despatch No. 721, September 21; received October 3.
  2. Italian Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.