The State Department has made a misinformative gesture of appearing to ‘deny’ the announcement of August 28th, wherein Lebanese press published a report that a United States intelligence delegation visited Damascus in June and held a meeting with senior officials of Syrian security agencies.
Lebanese media reported citing sources that the US delegation visited Damascus in June and held a meeting with senior officials of Syrian security agencies.
FRN also reported on this story:
At the meeting, the top US delegation said Washington would withdraw its troops from Syria if Iranian forces were withdrawn from southern Syria, the Al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Tuesday.
However, Heather Nauert told reporters on Wednesday, words that are meant for us to infer that that the US State Department was not aware of a meeting in Damascus between senior US officials and the head of the intelligence service of the Syrian National Security Agency. In reality, paraphrasing is nearly impossible, and only a critical dissection of the actual words stated can yield the correct array of possible meanings.
“It doesn’t reflect any reality that we are certainly aware of,” said spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “We’ve seen that report. It doesn’t reflect what the U.S. government is tracking at this point … I am not aware of any meeting to that effect,” Nauert said.
The Lebanese agency reported the meeting and said that the crucial points of the clandestine talks were also a proposal that US companies could receive oil concessions in eastern Syria and a request for the US to receive full information on the remaining terrorist groups in Syria, particularly on foreign fighters who could return to Western countries.
There are several critical pieces in understanding this story. To be absolutely clear, the State Department does not categorically deny that ‘a’ meeting took place. The literal interpretation of these statements is important for understanding, and for the historical record, because they are drafted by attorneys or with a purely legal/technical meaning. Common-place inferred meanings must be set aside in order to properly understand them. The key problematic, indeed revealing phrases are: ‘It doesn’t reflect what the U.S. government is tracking at this point’, and ‘I am not aware of any meeting to that effect’.
The first statement opens up the proper question: ‘Does it (reports of the meeting) reflect what the U.S. government was tracking at some other point?’. As to the second statement, we will dissect in the below, after point two.
Secondly, the present U.S system is either fragmented, or uses the illusion of fragmentation to compartmentalize responsibilities. This means that any foreign actor doesn’t have a full grasp, or full assurance of which part of the U.S establishment they are dealing with.
Therefore, for the State Department to refer to the ‘U.S Government’, does that mean the Congress, the president, civilian agencies, the military intelligence, or civilian intelligence agencies? To what extent does the public, including journalists at a state department public briefing, have the ‘right’ to know what is known? To what extent is the State Department briefed on things which would be inconvenient to report publicly on, if such a mandate to report publicly on these things exists? There is no right to know, regardless, at this time in history.
In reality, the State Department is the array of agencies and projects which relate to official diplomacy. They do not represent the military, the joint chiefs of staff, the military intelligence agencies, nor the Pentagon. When they refer to the ‘U.S Government’, they are not referring to those other U.S government agencies per se. These are highly problematic turns of phrases.
We live in a time of secret courts, of a U.S security state, of black operations and black budgets, of clandestine operations, etc. We live in a time when official U.S policy is not a matter of public record, nor can the public know what that policy is beyond tracking their actions and making logical deductions.
Thus if a journalists asks about a clandestine operation, does the State Department either have the obligation to reveal that, and even if so, would they – and barring those two – would not the other agencies involved in clandestine operations simply not ‘brief with inconvenient information’, those things to the public-side of the State Department, which fields questions from journalists?
Third, the spokesperson of the U.S State Department has, over the course of the last few years, been allowed by the department and by journalists, to refer to their own ‘personal knowledge’ of various matters, when the actual questions are about matters of state, and what is official State Department information, and not what the spokesperson remembers, recalls, or has been briefed on personally.
This is highly problematic, for now it infers – probably rightly so, in fairness – that the State Department spokesperson can only speak to those things which the State Department has briefed and allowed its spokesperson to speak on. Therefore, we can and should deduce that State Department has information which it withholds from its own spokesperson.
In the original report, which FRN carried, linked above, it is clear that the representatives which the reported Syrian intelligence officers met with, was not the ‘State Department’. Secondly, operations of this sort would not be a matter of public record, and would require at minimum a specified FOIA request to begin to gather information around, and furthermore, based on national security provisions in place, the relevant department involved with foreign intelligence operations in Syria (and there are several), would likely not be under obligation or the authority of such a FOIA request.
Therefore, the State Department stating that ‘they do not have information’ on the subject, should more properly be read as ‘does not confirm nor deny’.
Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the Russian Foreign Ministry was also not aware of alleged talks between US delegations and the Syrian intelligence services. However, again, this is the Russian equivalent of the US State Department (the Foreign Ministry), and furthermore, in the original report, the Russian involvement refers to Russian military, and specifically not to the Russian diplomatic mission to Syria.
But what meeting does the State Department recognize?
Heather Nauert told a news conference that US Special Representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey and Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs David Satterfield met with Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov at beginning of this week.
“Ambassador Jeffrey and Ambassador Satterfield met earlier this week with the Russian Ambassador to the United States in part to raise concerns about what could happen in Idlib,” Nauert said.
On Tuesday, Major General Aleksei Tsygankov, head of the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation, said representatives of the Al-Qaeda affiliated White Helmets group delivered a large consignment of toxic substances to a warehouse used by Ahrar al-Sham terrorists in Idlib province.
According to Tsygankov, part of this shipment in unidentified plastic barrels was then transported to another militant base in the southern part of Idlib province in order to stage a false-flag chemical attack and later accuse government forces of using agents against civilians.