"Now, prompted by domestic strife and external realpolitik, Mr Erdogan appears to be downsizing his aims and recasting Turkey in a peacemaking role while aiming to secure, with Russia's tacit approval, a large area of northern Syria as a semi-permanent buffer zone under its control. Turkish forces and allied rebel militias have seized an area of 2000sq km in northern Aleppo province since launching a cross-border operation in August to dislodge Islamic State from the frontier. They are now closing in on al-Bab, the last ISIS-held town between Aleppo and Raqqa. According to Turkish government sources, that is where they will stop and where renewed diplomatic ties will take over." (Putin, Erdogan carving up northern Syria, Hannah Lucinda Smith, The Times/ The Australian, 3/12/16)
If this report is correct, it wouldn't be the last time Turkey took a bite out of Syria. The story of the north-western Syrian province of Alexandretta (now Iskanderun), is instructive. In the 1930s, Turkey laid claim to Alexandretta on the grounds that it was Turkish (although less than half the population were Turks). France (which then ruled Syria under a League of Nations Mandate) and Turkey agreed to have the status of the province determined by the League Council, and, in January 1937, a settlement was reached in Turkey's favour. In the words of historian A.L. Tibawi, the settlement's: "... essence was to constitute the district of Alexandretta as a separate political entity with full internal independence under a statute and a fundamental law of its own. Its connection with Syria was restricted to customs and monetary matters, and its foreign affairs which were to be conducted by Syria after independence." (A Modern History of Syria, Including Lebanon & Palestine (1969), p 353)
Now here's where it gets really interesting:
"In the summer of 1938 when elections for an assembly were to be held under the new dispensation, France was more occupied with the larger problems of Germany... and gave way to Turkish pressure on a number of vital matters including the co-operation of Turkish troops for the maintenance of order during the elections. By this and similar means the Turkish minority won 22 out of the 40 seats. When the assembly met for the first time it elected a Turk for a speaker, another Turk for head of the state, renamed the territory the Republic of Hatay, and appointed an all-Turkish cabinet.
"Not content with these victories, the Turkish government exploited the strained world situation to an even greater extent and pressed for the annexation of Hatay. Britain and France were very eager to secure if not a Turkish alliance at least Turkish neutrality in a European conflict that seemed inevitable. It is said that Britain, who had given Turkey a big credit loan for rearmament, persuaded France to sacrifice Alexandretta as a price for gaining Turkish goodwill. France capitulated by signing an agreement in June 1939, ceding the territory to the Turkish Republic. This was clearly a grave violation of article 4 of the mandate which stipulated that the mandatory was required to see that 'no part of the territory of Syria and Lebanon is ceded or leased or in any way placed under the control of a foreign power'." (ibid)
One to watch...