AP’s Bradley Klapper’s Big Story on the Russian airstrikes from Iran underscore the confusion and shortcomings in Western media in trying to keep up and amplify the inconsistent, changing US Government ideological “Good-Bad” based narratives to justify its Syria policy, instead of keeping track of actual facts and asking deeper questions from the beginning.
August 17, 2016
Of all mainstream Western media outlets, the Associated Press (AP) is the least biased in its Foreign Policy coverage. It does not have the deeply ingrained establishment narratives of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Reuters news agency, all of which peddle US or NATO Government narratives (official or via the wildly popular “anonymous” sources; or from Think-Tank experts from the same echo chamber) without much questioning, but as established truths and received wisdom.
(Note: a recent New York Times article, “How Think Tanks Amplify Corporate America’s Influence” while focusing on them being compromised by Corporate America – a revelation with the same shock value as Casablanca’s Captain Renault’s exclamation that he is “shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!” – stops short of the more obvious facts that many of these Think Tanks serve as Echo Chambers to justify the Government’s Foreign Policy – a fact that mentioned in a New York Times article on how the Iran Deal was sold).
However even the AP doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is part of the same ecosystem and subject to the same groupthink as the rest of Western media. A look at AP’s Bradley Klapper’s Big Story entitled “Russia-Iran cooperation in Syria sends message to US” with a number of contributing correspondents from Beirut, Washington, Moscow and Dubai shows how particular narratives influence how news is reported.
Deconstructing AP’s Report
The commentary is divided into 8 sections pertaining to various statements and narratives sequentially cited in the report.
The longest and most critical – in both senses of the word – commentary is section 5, refuting the core US narrative on Syria that Western media treats as a truth.
1. On “Sending a Message”
US media and pundits when commenting on a stated US enemies’ actions, act many times as parodies of self-absorbed narcisstic high-school teenagers who think that everything that happens around them is somehow directed either for their benefit or detriment. The thought that other people have their own lives and interests doesn’t occur to them. (“OMG, Tiffany just went out with Brad just to, like, make me jealous. That’s, like, SO Tiffany!“)
Just like the United States, Russia has its own stated national security interests, which in the case of Syria, it has spoken about loudly, clearly and consistently for years now for anyone who chooses to listen. Indeed its entire stated attitude towards the Syrian position can be summed up in 20 propositions (as it was in October 2015) and it’s remarkable re-reading it now how it has consistently followed it (even 10 months later).
In short, Russia’s stated goal is to ensure that the secular Syrian state does not collapse to the dominant Salafist insurgents who – like ISIS – will become a greater danger not just to to the majority of Syrians living with reasonable security and stablity under the Assad regime, but ultimately to Russia itself.
Similarly Iran has its own national security interests which in the case of Syria hews closely to Russia’s and is even more urgent and immediate, given the declared and demonstrated antipathy of Salafists to Iran and Shi’ites.
So Russia and Iran have their own dynamic and reasons as neighbours and partners to work together in areas where they share mutual national security goals.
2. On the message: “Join us or we’ll look to your enemies”
The actual message, as per AP, that Russia is apparently sending is
Join us or we’ll look to your enemies.
So there are two interesting assumptions within this statement:
(a) Russia is trying to blackmail the US and
(b) Iran is an enemy of the US
Taking the second first, Iran is as much an “enemy” to the US Government – which for purely domestic political and military-industrial reasons eagerly seeks “with us or against us” enemies everwhere – as Russia and China are. And the Obama administration has sought talks with all three countries to varying degrees to make deals – including a politically costly one with Iran – where deemed acceptable and confrontation where not.
Iran is not directing its Syrian actions against the US anymore than Russia – they are both defending their own perceived national interests and making common cause where there’s mutual benefit.
Which brings one to the first part: that the Russians are trying to blackmail the US. Firstly it’s apparent that Russia needs the use of its strategic bombers that it used earlier in its intervention by flying all around Europe or from Southern Russia with mid-air refuelling adding to costs, time and risk. While demonstrating a proof-of-capability, having more immediate, less costly bombing capability would presumably be desirable as this technical article suggests (60% less flight time, more bombs per flights, more sorties, less cost).
Given that the US has not shown Russia to be a reliable partner to aid in attacking mutually acceptable targets, and its decisions even in the best case are always likely to come up with time consuming caveats, a prudent approach from the Russian point of view is to come up with options to fulfill its tactical imperatives. Like having a base in Iran.
Note, that after the thundering headine and definitive phraseology about “sending a message” the third para has this (emphasis added)
The bombing runs…may have been a reminder to the Obama administration that Moscow could be cozying up to Iran if Washington doesn’t come around.
So, AP is not asserting that Russia was sending a message, just speculating it may have. OK.
3. The standard Expert Quote
In the fourth para, there’s a usual quote from a go-to “Expert”, Andrew Tabler, who’s part of the same Washington echo chamber. Tabler is of course famous for giving two contradictory takes on Russian drawdown of its airforce in Syria in March in the space of a few hours to the New York Times.
But there’s the first glimmer of non-US centric thinking with the following statement attributed to the Expert.
He said the operations also cement Russia’s alliance with Iran in the region.
In other words that Russia may have reasons other than thumbing its nose at the US for working with Iran. (“Hmm..maybe Tiffany is going out with Brad because they like each other.“)
4. The standard Unnamed Diplomat Statements
Next comes the assertion that Russia had “privately assured” the US that its actions would “ultimately sideline” Iran. This is “according to US and European diplomats” – a standard acceptable phraseology in Western media, which is meant to sideline any questions about
(a) who these diplomats actually are;
(b) what their motives for making these statements to journalists are;
(c) whether it accurately reflects what Russia “privately” said.
Indeed it is my assertion – based on following events and analysis from various sources, Western, Russian, Iranian, Arab, Turkish, for a long time – that Russia, while careful of getting into bed with any one party, sees Iran as a strategic partner much beyond Syria. Iran is a neighbor, shares a Multi-Polar World View concept along with China, are candidates to join the Russia-China backed Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and both Russia’s Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union.
Furthermore, Russia follows a Reality, not Ideological, based Foreign Policy. It would know that even if it wanted to sideline Iran, it would be impractical given the deep ties that Iran independently has with the Syrian Government including being as crucial a partner to the Syrian military on the ground – having committed (and lost) several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – as Russia is in the air.
Thus the unnamed diplomats’ assertions about Russia’s private “assurances” are at best misunderstood, or at worst false.
5. The Core US Narrative
The sixth para restates the US narrative which is at the heart of the US involvment in Syria and repeated as truth by US media:
[Russia’s assurance that Iran will be sidelined was one of several such assurances that] U.S. and others have clung to as a potential pathway to peace, and which they hope to test when the U.N. sets up a new round of peace talks in coming weeks, even if they accuse Russia of failing countless previous challenges by persisting in bombing Assad’s more moderate opponents.
This Core Narrative repeated ad nauseum restates basic sub-narratives that
(A) the US primary goal is a political pathway to peace in the region;
(B) Russia doesn’t want, or as to be forced into, a Political Solution;
(C) there are effective “moderate” forces out there;
(D) Russia is bombing these “moderate” forces
and relies on the crucial (but unfortunately accurate) assumption that receivers of said sub-narratives – the Western public at large – are too preoccupied to accurately recall what happened the day before let alone months or years before.
(A) Sub-Narrative: US primary goal is Peace
To examine (A) in detail would take a while – but the plain fact – not opinion, not “conspiracy theory” – is that US had been looking not just passively forward to regime change in Syria at least since 2006, but actively hoping to exploit both (a) the unrest due to economic hardship as Assad introduced market reforms, as well as (b) the various ethnic fractures that were being held together by an authoritarian, even brutal, Syrian Government in return for stability and security for most. Indeed the cable of December 13, 2006 states this
We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.
See also the commentary on these famous Wikileaks cables.
(And that this push for regime change was borne out of a deep desire for democracy is belied for the US Government’s unstinting support for the absolutist Gulf monarchies, most of which by any human right metric would touted by the US – freedom of the press, women’s rights, respect for religion, minorities – would fall well short of Syria’s).
So when there was a chance to put the first flames out – flames that some assert in detail were actually started via US covert operations – by working cooperatively with Russia and other powers, the US instead allied with the Saudi, Qatari and Turkish governments and poured gasoline on the whole by overt and covertmilitary armaments/training/fianncial aid to insurgents, effectively ending up supporting hard-line Salafist groups to overthrow – not just separate from – the authoritarian but secular, modern and relative stable Assad-led multi-ethnic government.
These Salafist groups share the same essential ideology of ISIS and other groups that the US is actively fighting elsewhere in the world. The argument that just because some of these Salafist groups have only local ambitions – not global – is a cruelly hypocritical and short-sighted one because
(a) it basically says that groups it would never want anywhere near the West are OK to rule over millions of modern, secular Syrians who fear them as much as any in the West would;
(b) it assumes that battle-hardened Salafist groups having taken power of a state would not fight internicine wars for consolidation trying to eliminate not just secular or non-Sunni Syrians, but each other;
(c) it supposes that somehow these Salafists having achieved victory would stay “local” and not be safe havens for attacks outside Syria, but under their sponsors strict control (whose motives and targets are suspect in any case).
That even the Obama administration – coming to power as an antithesis of Bush’s foreign (and economic) policy disasters – did not heed the lessons of the Bush Invasion of Iraq and later of the Clinton-under-Obama Bombing of Libya, shows that regime change has strong establishment backers. With planners sitting in their cosy Washington offices deeming – God-like – that Assad had to go even as they had no clue as to how and what to replace with him with. And the best part was that like Banking CEOs, all the rewards would accrue to the policy makers – even if things went South – and the risks to the Syrian population at large. If a vacuum in central Syrian leadership ended up with internecine warfare and destruction of a middle income secular society back into primitive religious and ethnic enclaves, well it was simply the Arab people’s own fault, not the clearly civilized mandarins who set the wheels in motion and who are now on TV and writing colums justifying the next Intervention.
(B) Sub-Narratives: Russia doesn’t want a Political Solution
The above points against allowing Salafists to gain victory are part of the basic rationale Putin made as far back as 2012, against regime change. While not denying Assad’s authoriatism or the desire of some Syrian people for more freedom, he repeatedly asked for logical alternatives for the “day after” regime change. Here he was in answer to a question from the AP’s Moscow Correspondent Vladimir Isachenkov on December 20, 2012.
AP: As you know, western countries, the Arab League, and Turkey are all in favour of Bashar al-Assad stepping down, and say that this is the precondition for peace in Syria. In your opinion, could the fact that Russia disagrees with this premise result in its isolation and a loss of Russian influence, not only in Syria but in the Middle East in general, if Mr al-Assad’s regime falls?
Vladimir Putin: Listen my dear man, haven’t Russia’s positions regarding Libya been lost after the intervention? Whatever is being said now, the country continues to fall apart. Ethnic, clan and tribal conflicts continue. Moreover, the situation has resulted in tragedy, namely the murder of the US ambassador. Is this a result? People have asked me about mistakes; was this not a mistake? Do you want us to repeat these mistakes indefinitely in other countries?
We are not that preoccupied with the fate of al-Assad’s regime. We understand what’s going on there and that his family has been in power for 40 years now. Without a doubt, change is required. We’re worried about something else, about what happens next. We simply don’t want today’s opposition, having come to power, to start fighting with the current authorities, who then become the opposition, and for this to continue indefinitely.
….We advocate finding a solution to the problem which would spare the region and the country from disintegration and never-ending civil war.
That is our proposal and our position; not that al-Assad and his regime remain in power at any cost, but that people first agree among themselves about how they will live, how their security and participation in government will be assured. Only then should they begin to change the existing order in accordance with these agreements. Rather than the reverse, which would be to first drive out and destroy everything, and then try to negotiate. I think that agreements based on a military victory are irrelevant and can’t be effective. And what happens there depends above all on the Syrian people themselves.
Russia pushed hard for Geneva talks for a political settlement to succeed, using itsinfluence to ensure that the Syrian Government showed up. But these talks which went nowhere not only because of the various pre-conditions the US Government attached to the talks – Assad must go – but that the US Government itself could not control the myriad rapidly morphing factions on the ground to get an acceptable group to the talks that also had credibility on the ground, as it kept supplying weapons to various “moderate” anti-Assad groups only to see them in either the hands of ISIS or what even the US considered extremist anti-Assad groups.
Thus Russia, before its direct military intervention on the request of the sovereign Syrian Government to save it from falling to ISIS on one hand and the anti-Assad Salafists on the other, had tried to push for negotiations with little but lip service from the US Government. So any suggestions that Russia did not push for a political settlement is not just wrong, but instead a complete projection of what the US Government was in fact doing.
(C) Sub-Narrative: Effective “moderate” groups Exist
The various re-assuring terms – moderate, vetted, Free, Democratic, New – that the US Government uses to describe factions it supports are little but branding exercises meant to divert public attention from the clearly advertised religious, if not Salafist, ideology and aims of these rapidly morphing groups, an exercise that the media instead of questioning, is often complicit in amplifying.
Indeed Russia has repeatedly asked – without success – who these “moderate” groups are and how they differ in practice with ISIS and Al-Nusra two groups that the US agrees are legal targets. Putin made this memorable reference to differences between these groups in his speech as the Valdai International Discussion Club on October 22, 2015:
We do not need wordplay here; we should not break down the terrorists into moderate and immoderate ones. It would be good to know the difference. Probably, in the opinion of certain experts, it is that the so-called moderate militants behead people in limited numbers or in some delicate fashion.
In actual fact, we now see a real mix of terrorist groups. True, at times militants from the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other Al-Qaeda heirs and splinters fight each other, but they fight for money, for feeding grounds, this is what they are fighting for. They are not fighting for ideological reasons, while their essence and methods remain the same: terror, murder, turning people into a timid, frightened, obedient mass.
This was ironically before a faction that the US Government admitted it had supported in the past, al-Zinki was proudly and openly videotaped sadistically beheading a child soldier in July. AP’s State Department correspondent, the redoubtable Matt Lee, confronted the State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner, on July 19, 2016 who said in part:
QUESTION: I’m wondering if you have seen or you’re aware of this beheading of a child by a group that is supported by the United States.
MR TONER: Yeah. No, thanks. We’ve obviously seen the reports, and we just can’t confirm. We’re seeking more information. We understand from unconfirmed reports that the group, the Free Syrian Army, has appointed a commission to investigate the incident and that they’ve made arrests of those allegedly involved. I’d refer you to – it’s Al Zinki, I guess, is the group —
In early August, the same perpetrators were filmed (again openly) during the battle to break the Government siege in East Aleppo, boasting of their victories showing that far from being imprisoned they were very much on active frontlines.
QUESTION: Just very briefly on Aleppo and this group that is allegedly involved, was involved in breaking the siege – a rebel group, the ones that were accused of beheading this —
MS TRUDEAU: Al-Zenki.
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.
QUESTION: Beheading this child. One, do you know if the reports are true that they are or were involved in the fighting around Aleppo recently?
MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen reports that the alleged perpetrators in last month’s video have been seen fighting in Aleppo. I’m not in a position to confirm.
QUESTION: Okay. Should you – should it become confirmed that they are, is that an issue for you guys?
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Well, obviously, when reports of the beheading came out is we strongly condemned the barbaric actions seen on that video no matter what group was responsible. We note that that group had also said that they would hold those individuals to account. We’re not in a position to confirm if that’s happened, but we do expect all parties to comply with obligations under the law of armed conflict.
QUESTION: So you’re unaware that there has ever been a resolution to this specific —
MS TRUDEAU: I am not in a position to confirm that, no.
QUESTION: — case. And then just the other thing, which I think you probably won’t answer, but is this group still being supported by or was it ever supported by the United States?
MS TRUDEAU: So for security reasons, we do not comment on which groups are funded by the United States. However, we don’t support groups that commit this sort of barbarity, period.
So not only is the very definition of “moderate” groups unclear, but the US Goverment refuses to say who they fund as “moderate”, what controls they have in place should they prove to be immoderate and indeed, if truly “moderate” rebels exist in any effective sense, ie of being materially relevant to the anti-Assad fight.
Indeed the US Government had to tamp down its supply of weapons to anti-Assad rebels precisely because by its own, undeclared norms, “moderate” groups were few and were just as likely to hand them over to “extreme” groups. Moreover the US media itself has admitted that the most effective groups fighting Assad are Al-Nusra, and equally hard-line factions like Ahrar Al-Sham (which as this recent in-depth August 16, 2016 Foreign Policy article “Present at the Creation” shows was just another faction that shared ideology with ISIS like al-Nusra, and one that the US has refused to agree to be labelled in the UN as a terrorist organization. And thus immune from targetting as per the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement that was signed in February.)
So all word-smithing aside, it seems that not just the Russians but the US Government and its media agree that, at the least, there are no effective moderate anti-Assad forces out there. Or conversely the effective anti-Assad forces are allied Salafists, with the most effective being Al-Nusra. Indeed the New York Times White House correspondent, Harris Gardiner,asked John Kerry this question in a joint presser with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on July 15, 2016
…critics say this deal is a huge boon to the Assad regime by concentrating American firepower against the most effective anti-Assad forces and that you’re basically selling out the rebels.
In other words, Gardiner was openly asking why Americans, let alone Russians, were targetting al-Nusra, the Syrian spin-off of Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for attacks in Gardiner’s paper’s headquarters in New York in 2001, instead of letting them fight Assad.
Besides reminding Gardiner – and the critics – that the al-Nusra was on the UN terrorism list and not subject to the CoH, Kerry blunty said:
So if some critic is criticizing the United States or Russia for going after al-Nusrah, which is a terrorist organization, because they’re good fighters against Assad, they have their priorities completely screwed up.
…second is obviously the question of al-Nusrah – which, as you just said, is fighting against Assad and which is providing no peace and security and which, regrettably, some opposition have occasionally chosen to fight with because they are fighting against Assad. But that doesn’t excuse it, and it will not excuse it in our eyes. We saw what happened when people said the same thing about ISIL for a period of time – oh, don’t worry, they’re just a force against Assad, and down the road we can take them on. Well, they became more than just a force. And so I think that it is important for the United States, Russia, the entire coalition of ISSG to stand up against terrorism, and that is what we intend to continue to do.
So Kerry himself was indicating that not only Al-Nusra but those groups allying with them had themselves to blame if they were targeted.
(D) Sub-Narrative: Russians are targetting “moderate” rebels
Even assuming that there are some moderate groups out there as the US Government insists there are, why would the Russians target them given that pretty much everyone agrees that even if they exist they are ineffective? What difference to the war effort would that make? It’s far more profitable for the Russians to spend their limited sortie capability to target the most effective forces. Which, as Kerry and the media acknowldges above, are al-Nusra – which happen to be forces even the US Government agrees are fair targets outside of the CoH.
Thus the core narrative by the US Government that Russia is targetting moderate forces does not make any sense, and yet the US media continues to amplify this narrative without any hint of cognitive dissonance.
6. The Beseiged Opposition
Klapper goes on to state
If Russia is moving closer to the Assad-Iran-Hezbollah alliance, it could spell doom for Syria’s besieged opposition.
This phrase depends on a clever sleight-of-hand narrative that has been amplified by the media recently, which is that of the “besieged opposition”. In factual terms, this “opposition” are the Salafist groups headed by Al-Nusra (now rebranded Jabhat Faten al-Sham), who are trying to link the core base in Idlib province with their beseiged bretheren in East Aleppo (which is estimated to have a population of 250,000 or less) compared to the Government controlled West Aleppo (which is estimated to have 1.5 million) – in other words over 85% of Aleppans are under Government control under threat from the Salafists.
So over the course of the past few weeks, the Western media has started referring to the anti-Assad Salafists as “the opposition” which while strictly true, very deliberately blurs the lines between what the US Government had previously called the “moderate” opposition and the current crew which are essentially Al-Nusra led allied groups. One may as well call ISIS the opposition (since it opposes the Assad Government as well).
7. State Department Mark Toner’s Briefing
Klapper goes on to comment on the what the State Department spokesman said:
The State Department’s Toner said the Russian cooperation with Iran doesn’t preclude the possibility of a U.S.-Russian partnership in Syria. But such an arrangement would become more difficult if it essentially meant a U.S.-Russia-Iran partnership.
Toner also suggested Russia violated last year’s U.N. security Council resolution enshrining the Iran nuclear deal.
The first sentence is true: Toner did say that about Russian cooperation not being precluded by its deal with Iran.
The second statement about a Russian partnership becoming “more difficult” is pure opinion, something that correspondents tried to make stick on Toner who refused to be drawn in. Indeed, if the US can take off from Turkish airbases, why can’t Russia from Iranian ones? What Russia has been saying from the beginning is that if the US Government is serious about defeating ISIS and defanging Al-Nusra, something that is the stated goal of not just the US, but Turkey as well as Iran, why not all work together?
The third statement that Toner suggested Russia violated the deal is delibarately putting words in Toner’s mouth. Here’s the exchange with Klapper on August 16, 2016.
QUESTION: — there was specific language that carried over from previous resolutions about the use of Iranian territory or even its airspace for combat aircraft. Do you view this as a violation of the UN Security Council – I think it said provided that – it was permissible if the Security Council gave specific permission on a case-by-case basis. I’m guessing that didn’t happen in this case. Correct me if I’m wrong.
MR TONER: I don’t believe it did happen, and we’re looking into it is the short answer to your question. If these reports are true, it could very well be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which, as you noted, prohibits the supply, sale, or transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved in advanced by the UN Security Council. I just don’t have a definitive answer. I know our lawyers are kind of looking at the – and trying to collect as much – many details as they can at this point.
QUESTION: Well, what would be the real-world ramifications of that? Just great, Russia violated something, but it doesn’t really matter?
MR TONER: Fair question, and I don’t have a complete answer for you. I know that it would be discussed at – obviously at the Security Council level. As to what steps may be taken as a result or as a consequence, if it is even proven that this happened, I can’t give you much detail right now.
8. Iraq’s Permission for Use of Airspace
The last two paras state – as per an anonymous (Ed: of course) US official – that Russia and Iran had overflown Iraq without the latter’s persmission. Given that both Russia and Iran are working quite closely to help Iraq defeat ISIS in Iraq, with a Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq coordinating center set up at the end of September 2015 in Baghdad, it’s more likely that Iraq did give permission at least tacitly if not explicitly.
Klapper’s story shows that the media having bought and amplified the US Government’s initial ideological based narratives about Syria, narratives that the Obama administration is now trying to back out off, finds itself confused and twisted as to who the “good” and “bad” guys are, ie trying to see the world through shifting ideological lenses. The Russian narrative, based on Realism is much more linear and pragmatic, and ultimately more factual, but one that the media refuses to pay heed to since presumably that is all “Russian propaganda”.
By the time I finished the story, a few artciles caught my eye that are relevant to the above article:
1. Russian Response to suggestions UN Resolutions Violated
Lavrov not only strongly refuted any suggestion that taking off from Iran did not violate UN Resolution 2231 (on the sale and transfer of arms to Iran) but he hit back saying looking into it would also mean
…we will have to sort out how a vast amount of cash made it to Iran from the US, and why bank transfers from the US to Iran have taken place in dollars – it is strictly prohibited under American laws.
In addition the Russian Defense Ministry observed the fact that the US actions in Syria violate International Law
We’d like to have an answer to a simple question – is there any provision in the UN Charter, or a UN Security Council resolution, or a bilateral US-Syria agreement allowing to bomb Syrian territory … from Turkish airbase Incirlik or any other foreign air bases.
2. Iraq Confirms Opened Airspace
The Iraqi PM confirmed with Iran’s Press TV that Iraqi Airspace was opened to conditional use by the Russians.
3. Washington Post Reminds of decades-long Coup planning in Libya
In an article about how “A former CIA asset has become a U.S. headache in Libya” , Missy Ryan of the Washington Post cheerfully recounts the past history of Khalifa Hifter as a CIA asset and the extensive decade-long efforts that the US Government expended for a coup against Gaddafi and to prepare for the day after. While the focus is on Hifter now becoming a liability – in other words just like every other regime change agent, it was interesting how all the regime change planning quite openly admitted now, but any suggestions of on-going operations and planning are treated as “conspiracy theories” by not just the US Government but the media as well.