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Study Notes

Failure of the League in Abyssinia


Last updated 3 Sept 2018

The Italian Invasion of 1935 was a decisive victory for Italian forces over those of Abyssinia. This of course should not come as a surprise as the Italian forces were far superior to those of Abyssinia. The League had been designed to prevent this very from happening and should be able to arbitrate against a larger power invading a smaller power.

The rules of the League of Nations made it absolutely clear that Italy was in the wrong and that international sanctions should be imposed upon Italy as the aggressor. The League set up a committee which was to agree about what sanctions they should impose. Time is off the essence with sanctions as the longer they take to be imposed, the longer the aggressor had to stockpile resources for when sanctions took effect. In response to the aggression, the League of Nations banned the selling of weapons to Italy, it also banned loans and selling of ribber, tin and metals.

The League argued over the decision about whether to ban oil being exported to Italy. One of the stumbling blocks was support for the decision from other countries to support the measures. Major powers like France and Britain were reluctant to enforce sanctions. One major decision was the closure of the Suez Canal to Italian shipping. Had Britain and France done this it would have cut off Italian supply ships being able to access Abyssinia as easily which would have supported Abyssinia in the war.

The decision on oil was finally made in February 1936, but it was too little too late. Mussolini had already overrun most of Abyssinia by this point and American oil companies increased their sales to Italy.

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