The Italians had watched from the sidelines the constant expansion of other European powers in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. Having taken possession of Tunisia and Algeria, France was now moving into Morocco, while Great Britain controlled Cyprus, Egypt, and the Suez. Occupation Tripolitania, formally under Turkish sovereignty, was the the only possible way – according to the forceful Italian natiionalist movements – of re-establishing equilibrium in teh Mediterranean. But there had to be a reason for such action, some pretext, even a dubious one. As a result, on September 27, 1911, the Italian government, headed by the liberal Giovanni Giolitti, sent an ultimatum to Sultan Mehmet V inviting him to cooperate peacefully with the occupation of by the Italian Army, to be sent to protect the local Italin community, which was threatened by the Muslim Berbers. Istanbul did not reject the ultimatum, and the Turkish Goverment limited itself to asking Italy to respect formal Turkish sovereignty. This request was refused, and at 2:30 p.m. on September 29, Italy declared war on Turkey.
In the days leading up to the declaration of war, Italian military dispatches and the nationalist press had talked unceasingly of a “military rout.” It did not turn
out quite like that. The 20,000 Italian troops landed at Tripoli in two stages on October 10 and 12, under General Caneva. They met fierce resistance Turkish contingent of 4,000 men, in particular from the Berber cavalry. During the landing at Benghazi, a fierce battle took place during which 600 Italian soldiers were killed. The invading army quickly grew to 100,000 soldiers, against 20,000 Libyans and 8,000 Turks.
For the first time in history, aviation was used in a conflict. Italian aircraft based in Sicily bombed the enemy. While the fighting on land became a war of attrition, in April 1912 the Italians executed a lightning naval attack: five destroyers managed to get through the Strait of the Dardanelles, while an expeditionary force commanded by Admiral Millo occupied Rhodes and twelve other Turkish islands in the Aegean Sea (since then called the Dodecanese islands). Such operations alarmed Vienna, which protested to Italy, fearing repercussions on the fragile balance in the Balkans. Austria’s fears turned out to be well-founded, as on October 8, 1912, Montenegro, closely followed by Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, declared war on Turkey, giving rise to the ” First Balkan War.”
Fearing further developments, the great powers pressure on Rome and Constantinople to end their war, on October 18, 1912, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. Turkey kept its formal sovereignty, conceding adminism and political autonomy to Libya – in other words to Italy – maintained its judicial powers through the cadi (jdges) appointed by the Sultan. For Italy, however, Libya (consisting of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica) did not turn out to be an easyly managed acquisition. Skirmishes continued to affect military and civilian population until Libya was finally de ed in 1931 by General Rodolfo Graziani.