Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15th, 1915

- On the western slope of Heights #184 west of Görz an Austro-Hungarian trench has been the scene of particularly desperate fighting in the first days of the 4th Battle of the Isonzo, with the position changing hands almost hourly.  As a result, the Austro-Hungarians have constructed a new trench line two hundred yards to the east at the crest of Heights #184, and over the past two nights have withdrawn to this new position.  The old trench line is conceded to the Italians, and the ground thus gained is both significant (in terms of overall Italian gains in the offensive) and meaningless (the trench line has been thoroughly ruined by artillery fire and does not open up the enemy line).  As such, the 'concession' by the Austro-Hungarians west of Heights #184 is entirely emblematic of the 4th Battle of the Isonzo.

To the south, the Italians make yet another effort today to seize Mt. San Michele, with infantry assaults at 7am following a heavy artillery bombardment.  The focal point of the morning's fighting is a stretch of trench on the northern slope of the mountain, which changes hands several times despite artillery fire having largely obliterated the trench.  Into the evening hours the Italians feed fresh reserves into the fight, and at nightfall the Austro-Hungarians concede a hundred yards of the 'trench'.  The loss, however, is inconsequential.

To date the 4th Battle of the Isonzo has played out as the third - the Italians have made inconsequential gains for heavy losses.  The Austro-Hungarians, however, have also suffered terribly in the fight, and 5th Army is increasingly concerned that its forces are wearing out, and in particular that the army's reserves are units that have not yet recovered from lengthy stints on the front lines.  Concerned with the ability to hold off an Italian offensive that they appear to aim to continue for some time, Conrad orders 9th Division, stationed on the Eastern Front behind Südarmee, to redeploy to the Italian Front.

- In an effort to resolve the crisis in Teheran, the German military attaché attempts to convince the Persian Cossack Brigade, nominally under the control of the Persian government but officered by Russians, to turn against its Russian officers and rally to the shah.  The Russians, however, had gotten wind of the plan, and the brigade was paraded and declared that its loyalty was foremost to the tsar.  Moreover, the Russians threaten to depose Shah Ahmad and replace him with his father Muhammed Ali, who had been deposed as shah in 1909 and found refuge in Russia.  Shah Ahmad is faced with the choice of acquiescence with Entente dominance or side with Germany, and in such a situation the fact that Russian forces are nearby while Germans are not is significant - to side with the Germans would necessitate fighting the Russians with minimal German aid.  By this morning the German embassy and pro-German liberals and nationalists in the Maljis have left Teheran for Qum en route to Isfahan, and Ambassador Reuss has encouraged the shah to follow and establish a government there in alliance with Germany.  Shah Ahmad is to depart Teheran at 9am this morning, but with the Germans and their Persian allies having already departed his resolve is weakened by the Russian and British ambassadors, and at the last moment he decides to remain in Teheran.  This action destroys German influence in the Persian government and police, most of whom remain loyal to the shah, while the departure of the German embassy and their pro-German allies in the Maljis from Teheran effectively removes their ability to influence Persian affairs.  Henceforth, the Entente will have the upper hand in Persia.

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