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Mussolini's secret war: Italian and British intelligence in the Mediterranean and Middle East

Williams, M. (2007) Mussolini's secret war: Italian and British intelligence in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Intelligence and National Security, 22 (6). pp. 881-904. ISSN 0268-4527

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Abstract

Little is known of the history, structure and operations of the Italian intelligence services in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The challenge brought by Fascist Italy to the security of the British and French imperial systems is at the heart of this article, which sets out to assess not only the imperial dimension of Fascist intelligence but also the response provided by Britain's and France's colonial authorities to Mussolini's ambitions in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. An examination of British and French intelligence archival material sheds new light upon perceptions of power and threat afforded by British and French policy-makers keen to maintain political control over their colonial and client states. The paper suggests that despite comprising a multitude of competing agencies, the Fascist services could rely on the work of motivated individuals and on the support of Italian diplomatic representatives overseas. Their ability to establish relations - although short-lived - with Arab nationalist leaders and their intense activities in British colonies, protectorates and mandates generated concern within the British Foreign and Colonial Offices. Meanwhile, poor intelligence coordination and assessment coupled with misguided assumptions about the nature of Arab nationalism hindered Britain's response to the challenge mounted by Mussolini's regime.