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With its own private Drang Nach Osten (Drive to the East) already pushed from Ethiopia through British Somaliland, hammering at the island of Perim in the Red Sea and the port of Haifa on the Mediterranean, Italy took a running jump last week, landed at the far edge of the Middle East. Out across the sands of Arabia to the Persian Gulf it sent a squadron of heavy bombers, driving at the oil depots and refineries of the Bahrein Archipelago.

This was, strictly, no legitimate objective. The Bahrein oil concessions are owned jointly by Texas Corp. and Standard Oil of California. Bahrein's ruler is an independent sheik, its western inhabitants mostly Americans. But Italy quickly pointed out that California Texas Oil Co. is a British corporation, that Bahrein is governed as a British protectorate.

With exultant whoops Rome claimed "enormous fires that could be seen at a great distance." Caustically Cairo replied that there had been no casualties and little damage, that only four planes had appeared. From San Francisco, Standard of California confirmed the British report, said only a water main and an oil pipe had been damaged.

More important to Italy than the actual destruction accomplished was the propaganda value of the raid. Loudly Rome boasted that the bombers had set a new distance record, covering 2,800 miles on the outgoing trip from bases in Libya or Italy. It was a lot more probable that they had taken off from Eritrea, or that the Italian military mission had won the use of an air base from the French in Syria. But Italy stuck to its story, declared the planes had been refueled from submarine tankers. The warning to the U. S. and the Near East was clear.