Antioch, Turkey (in reality, occupied Syria) – In a rare appearance before the international press, Colonel Riad Al-As’ad, defector, deserter and seditionist of the Syrian Army has announced that the formerly-titled “Free Syrian Army” is renamed the “Cheaper Syrian Army”.  Whilst his Turkish minders were fidgeting nervously as he pronounced every word, the Colonel held court amidst a crush of reporters.

Colonel Al-As’ad after having been shaved and groomed by a Turkish-Armenian barber working for the Ankara government.  The barber who goes by the name of “Lolo” said that the Colonel had just taken a bath for the first time in years before the photo was shot.   

Col. Al-As’ad spoke through a translator especially trained for the interpreting rural Syrian patois.
“We cannot go on fighting at these ridiculous costs.  We don’t want to be expensive so we decided to change our name to the Cheaper Syrian Army.  This way, people don’t think we are overpriced.”

Dee Duk Chong of Korea Express News asked him: “Bah wah you tink pipple caaah bout yooo pwice.  Pipple beleehve you patwiotic, wight?  What do if pipple say noh, too expensive?”

The Colonel seemed puzzled by the translator’s rendition of the question and appeared to ask him if he understood Korean.  The translator shook his head negatively.  The Colonel ventured an answer anyway despite not knowing the gist of the question:

“Well, I’m not planning to go to the U.S. very soon due to difficulties in arranging a green card.  It’s my hope to live out the rest of my life in Alaska, thank you.”  The American Consul in Izmir who was attending the conference clapped animatedly and shouted: “We’re with you Colonel. All the way.” 

This reporter followed up with: “But what if you wind up getting caught like your hayseed predecessor, Colonel Hantoush; will you also appear on Syrian t.v. and denounce the rebels as traitors who promise too much?”

The Colonel pondered what appeared to be notes for a moment and responed laconically: “Yes. No one wants to miff the security people.  I’ll say anything, of course, to avoid the horrible music they play in the prisons.” 

Looking befuddled, Colonel Al-As’ad sits in full combat dress before a flag of the Republic of the Hogarth Islands.  The mistake was made by a Turkish security agent but not picked up by the hapless quondam Syrian officer.
Jim Muir of the BBC, whose breath reeked of the locally manufactured faux-scotch whiskey, volubly shrieked out a question: “How does the Colonel feel about having access to bathing facilities?  Do you think this is something you might get used to?” The Colonel smiled and rejoindered: “In Alaska, I will bathe in hot springs.”  Whereat he gazed to the heavens as though communicating with a deity or alien passing through the stratosphere.  “My God, he’s daft!” cried the besotted Mr. Muir of the BBC. “Well, then, do you propose committing acts of terror and mayhem in Syria for reduced discount prices?  What will your revolutionary credentials look like after a position point like that?”
Mr. Muir collapsed at that instant and was taken to hospital for detoxification.  But the Colonel was oblivious to Jim Muir’s crisis and continued:  “No.  I think the people of Syria will understand. We have a natural fear of “free” things in Syria.  But “cheap” is okay.”    

At this time, Turkish security agents surrounded the Colonel and took him involuntarily outside the conference room.  He has not been seen since. 

In a meeting with the Turkish official in charge of handling the former colonel and his handful of protoges, a Mr. Sait Gunuk Gubblezadeh,  we asked him about reports that P.M. Erdoghan considered him a “potential new leader” for Syria. His response was mysterious:

Prime Minister Erdoghan successfully answering:  `what is five less one?”   
“Look, we don’t make these people in a factory.  They crawl across our borders and we have to deal with them.  Do you like Turkish Delight?  Do you have any American cigarettes?”

This reporter is on her way to Antalya for an award ceremony in which foreign minister Ahmet Davutoghlu will be receiving the “Cuddliest Dunderhead Prize” from the Mercury News Service Board of Governors.