Ethiopia Contested

When the Italians invaded Ethiopia, there was widespread condemnation of the invasion and calls for the western powers to act.  Let’s say that one of the British politicians takes a tougher stance and demands that the British honour their league commitments.  The British don’t quite declare war, but they close the Suez to Italian shipping and seal off the Italian positions.

Mussolini can’t back down.  He needs to have military success to validate Italy’s role as a great power, so he orders the Italian forces in Libya to prepare for war and starts making noises about illegal blockades.  Italian ships start convoying troopships to Libya and British ships shadow them.  One incident later and Italy and Britain are at war. 

Italian forces head out of Libya towards Egypt.  The Italians are slower than they were in OTL 1940 and even less eager for war.  On the other hand, the British don’t have so much in place to stop them.  The Italians grind towards Cairo. 

The British impose a blockade on Italy and attack the Italian navy.  The Italians are short on oil and fuel and lose several ships to British action.  Italian troops are running out of supplies in Libya, although their resort to poison gas comes as a shock and gives them a couple of minor successes.  The British supply the Ethiopians with weapons and help them to fight back. 

The British build up rapidly in Egypt.  Indian, Australian and South African troops are used to launch a counterattack that shatters the weakened Italian army and then head to Tripoli.  Italy launches an amphibious invasion against Malta that is a complete failure.  Mussolini’s power is weakening.

As the British cross the border of Libya, Mussolini offers to negotiate.  The British want several guarantees that Mussolini refuses to give, including his own removal, so the British keep the war going.  Their economy gets a boost from the war.  When Libya falls, the Italian government sees the writing on the wall and overthrows Mussolini, restoring a democratic government. 

Peace comes swiftly.  Italy loses all its colonies in Africa.  Ethiopia gets a full apology and Italian Somaliland.  Italy loses most of its navy and is forced to accept limits on some of its armed forces.  Hitler gets the message that not all democratic states are weak.  WW2 is averted as it seems to be clear that the democratic states will halt any too aggressive state.

This has major long-term effects.  The Spanish Civil War won’t last so long without Italian involvement and probably no soviet involvement.  The republicans would hold most of the cards without their opponents receiving aid from Hitler and Musso, Franco would end up trapped in Morocco.  If France helps out, Morocco might be recaptured, if not, there would be a nationalist-dominated Morocco complicating politics.  Without the SCW, Hitler can’t rearm the way he needs to, meaning that Germany won’t pose such a great threat.  Once it’s clear that there will be no more conquests, the Third Reich is likely to collapse. 

Japan would be less aggressive if it’s clear that Britain still has some fight left in it.  This would probably mean a quiet agreement on spears of influence.