The Chargé in Egypt ( Childs ) to the Secretary of State
[Received 6:30 p.m.]
72. In addition to the defense of Egypt against Italy, about which there is now fairly general confidence on the part of the British in Egypt, three questions incidental to the new international situation have preoccupied Residency recently, namely:
(1) Suez Canal; (2) possible application of sanctions by Egypt as a non-member of the League of Nations against Italy; and, (3) capitulations.
Considering that the closing of the Canal to Italy would be the most effective sanction that could be possibly taken by League it seems to be recognized that such a sanction, which could be enforced only by a naval blockade of approaches to the Canal, would almost inevitably lead to hostilities between Italy and those member states upon whom enforcement of the blockade would fall. Consequently without the anticipated support of France in such a blockade, Great Britain so far as can be seen here is extremely loath to undertake such a thing.
The British are also concerned regarding many complications likely [Page 585] to arise from the application of economic sanctions by Egypt which would be bound, in the opinion of their advisers, to result, in the administrative measures of their enforcement, in the infringement of the rights of the capitulary powers. It is reasoned that such an occasion might be easily taken advantage of by Italy to drive a wedge between Great Britain and French [France], it being held that the latter could claim that Great Britain, by its special position in Egypt, under the reserved points,27 was alone responsible for the defense of Egypt against foreign aggression and for the protection of foreigners, and in the event Italy seized occasion to oppose by force of arms the application of sanctions by Egypt and the consequent violation of Italy’s capitulary rights, France might consider the issue as solely concerning those countries. A principal concern of Great Britain regarding Egypt’s colonies [sic] in the Italo-Abyssinian dispute appears here to be to avoid the raising of any issue which might separate Great Britain from France and the League. At the same time I learn this morning that quite serious consideration is being given to the application by Egypt of economic sanctions, particularly in the suspension of exports to Italy, but with a full realization of the many complications involved, some of which have been indicated above, the greatest prudence is expected to be shown therein.
So far, the younger British advisers in the Egyptian Ministries have succeeded in persuading the British Foreign Office of the extreme advisability of doing nothing which might in any way offend Egyptian national susceptibilities, as there is a very great desire to avoid the errors committed during the World War, antecedences dealing with Egypt, and to maintain the distinctly improved atmosphere of Anglo-Egyptian relations which is so noticeably apparent.
On the other hand the Egyptian Government is showing every disposition to accede to British desires in the matter of cooperation with Great Britain in applying sanctions against Italy.
- See British Cmd. 1592, Egypt No. 4 (1922), pp. 29–31, for Lord Allenby’s declaration of February 28, 1922, recognizing Egypt’s independence, but, pending the conclusion of agreements with Egypt, absolutely reserving to the discretion of His Majesty’s Government the following matters: (a) Security of British Empire communications in Egypt; (b) defense of Egypt against foreign aggression; (c) protection of foreign interests and of minorities in Egypt; (d) the Sudan.↩