How the Paris Peace Accord of 1919 Caused the Asia Minor War to 1922
Italy's Bold Moves Creates a War
A delegation under the presidency of the Greek Prime Minister Venizelos was commissioned under Paris Peace Accord to set forth their national claims and desires.
Venizelos had stated and defended his homeland’s claims on December 30, 1918, in a memorandum. He had to defend his thesis exuberantly in order to remain in power. By resorting to territorial claims extending from Ionia to Troy, he strived to appeal to Greek national sentiments and to secure his position (because he wasn’t as popular then as he was in 1910-1918). The events after WW1 had started testify to the rift between King Constantine (who pursued a neutrality policy) and Venizelos (who wished to join the Allies). By gaining the Allies’ support, he wanted to take advantage in this conflict to increase Greece’s territorial claims and desires. In April 1915, Italy had been promised the Asia Minor area near Adalia by the Treaty of London. Then, in 1917, Izmir (Symrna) was promised to Italy. The objective of the British was to control the straits and expel the Turks from Europe because they did not like them nor trusted them.
Venizelos drew up a memorandum full of questionable claims and statements incongruous with historical facts and international law for this peace accord, where only the victors participated. Venizelos was obsessed with the Megali Idea and was able to convince many of the Greek populace that parts of Turkey were historically Greek. It was deeply rooted in the national and religious psyche and for over 100 years inspired policy. Venizelos believed that all Greeks wee racial and cultural descendants of the ancient Greeks and his plan was to restore the old Hellenic Empire to include Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, West Turkey, Black Sea coastal areas (called Pontus) from the Bospherous to Trabzon, and the Aegean islands.
The claims in the memorandum were not solely concerning İzmir. He wished to annex the Turkish territory west of the line beginning 25km east of Bandirma and Kursunlu. It followed this route, beginning west of the 764m high Karadag, Demircidag, and Usak, 10 km east of Mugla, south of Bozdag and after passing Akdag, ending 10 km west of the town of Kalkan. These and the territories approved by conference commission are illustrated on the drawing. They had projected a Greek annexation confined to solely Izmir and Ayvalik.
The British intent was to prevent Italy from gaining a foothold in Turkey. Italy wanted to gain the entire southern and western Turkish coast including the Provinces of Aydin and Konya, which were behind these. Italy, having a strong navy in the Mediterranean Sea, could pose a menace for England. When taking into account the fact that England had taken over the Suez Canal and Bosphorus (Istanbul Strait) this fear became reality.
As to France, which planned to occupy the area extending to Taurus mountains apart from Syria, and having secured the region until Lamas River through an agreement with the Italians. Moreover, France was the second greatest maritime power after England, and French concerns were that Italy’s expansion in the Mediterranean might be allowed.
In May 1919, Italy was weary of it all and began to make moves in the Turkish theatre, which to a nervous and paranoid British government read the moves as Italy’s attempt to preempt the decisions made at the conference. Italy and the US President Wilson likewise poured salt into the allied suspicions when they entered into very heated debates over the fate of Fiume port on the Adriatic. So hot, the Italians walked out. This infuriated President Wilson and when reports came in that Italy had sent two cruisers to Smyrna (Izmir). The British, US and French now felt their suspicions had finally been confirmed. The US offered to send their crusier, George Washington, to intercept. The British suggested that all three allies send warships to intercept. Then, reports came in that Italian troops were advancing far beyond their Adalia area in south Turkey. In addition, Italy had not sent two warships to Symrna but seven.
The remaining Allied nations were spinning. The British said unless we do something fast, Italian troops will be in Izmir, and then what? It was agreed to make a quick decision before the Italians came back. On May 6, the British suggested that the Greeks should land troops at Izmir. This was against the advice of the British military generals. General Henry Wilson said, “the whole thing is mad”. The British Prime Minister did not want to hear it. The US agreed and added that it should be done now. The British and French concurred. Thus, just like that, the British called Venizelos in Greece and told him to send in Greek troops.
Italy’s bold moves would ignite the Asia Minor Campaign (as known to the Greeks) or The War of Independence (as known to the Turks). The squabbles continued between Italy and the others until finally agreement was reached on May 14. Greece would receive the area from Symrna to Ayvali (an area about 75miles wide, 150 miles long), including the lower Meander (Menderes) River and as far east to Aydin. The Italians would receive a huge area south of the same river including Konya, the French would receive Cicilia (north and central Turkey), and America, the Armenian area near the Turk-Russian border.