Courtesy Reuters

German Preparations in the Middle East

THE geographical triangle stretching between the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Indian Ocean, and vaguely known as the Middle East, is the most important link between the key members of the United Nations: the United States, Britain and her central Asian empire, China and the U.S.S.R. The Suez Canal and the shipping lanes westward through the Mediterranean, eastward to India and southward around the Cape are the heart of an area including the richest petroleum deposits in the Old World, the greatest road and air network between East and West, and regions valuable not only from a purely strategical point of view but for cotton, grain, fruit, gold and chromium. Finally, the Middle East is not only the barrier between the two expanding ends of the Axis -- in Europe and Asia -- but contains the gateway to Europe through the Balkans, the backdoor to the Soviet Union through the Dardanelles and over the Caucasus, the road to India through Iran and Baluchistan, and the main route to Central Africa along the Nile valley. In itself it is a vitally important section of the world and from the strategical point of view in a military sense it is the most important single geographical area of the war.

The German Empire before and during the last World War was fully aware of this as were the Allies who, after the unsuccessful Dardanelles campaign by which they sought to split the Central Powers, began the systematic destruction of the Ottoman Empire accompanied and followed by the development of the Salonika operations which eventually penetrated into the heart of the Austro-Hungarian position from the rear. Kaiser Wilhelm, looking towards the commercial riches of the British East, obtained the assent of the Sultan to the construction of the Berlin to Baghdad rail system (completed by British engineers in 'Iraq in the summer of 1940) and dispersed agents as far East as Kuwait, Persia and Afghanistan devoted to the cause of furthering German

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