So my knee is screwed up and possibly needs a bit of broken bone removed, as a result I can’t walk too much at the moment until the operation is done. Feeling restless, I looked out my kitchen window and saw this beautiful cloud formation.
To be honest this is such a huge topic it is impossible to cover all of it here. I am concentrated on how Syria is at the center of international Geo-political strategy.
The Iran nuclear deal
It has to be said that anything that can reduce nuclear weapon development has to be a good thing. Why on earth we need them at all has to be the question, if ever they were used anywhere in the world, the consequences would enormous. So we come back to the Iran deal. Iran has been suffering under sanctions for a while now and the impact on its economy is heavy. Not only that, it is costing a lot of money to continue its military support of the Assad regime in Syria and also Hezbollah in Lebanon. Estimates put the cost of this support at somewhere in the region of $1 Billion per month. Iran is playing a clever game, they agreed to stop Uranium enrichment in return for the lifting of sanctions, which will allow them to sell their oil on the open market. What is interesting is how quickly they agreed to this. This suggests that they already have enough enriched Uranium to make a bomb, the hard part is building a deliverable weapon. So agreeing to this demand would not have been difficult for them. In any case, supporting Assad is a much greater priority for them now than the building of a nuclear weapon. So why is Iran supporting Assad? Basically it comes down to the fact that Iran is trying to grow its sphere of dominance in the middle east. When Bashar al Assad became president he allowed Iran to have much more influence in the running of Syria than his father ever did. The Assad regime is the only one that will allow Iranian influence in Syria, in fact, now the Assad regime is so much in debt to the Iranians that it is little more than a vassal power that represents Iranian interests. If Assad were to go, Iran would lose this influence and its arm that reaches all the way to the Mediterranean sea via Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Hence it agreed to the nuclear deal as it needs the money to fight to keep Assad in power. I suggest you read this interview I made with Zaid Tlass, a senior air-force General and whose family was very close to the Assad family before they defected, to get more info about the regime and Iran.
Syria: Al Qaeda, the USA, Iran, Turkey etc
Syria is now at the center of Geo-political games being played out by various countries. On the one hand you have Iran supporting Assad directly, and indirectly through Hezbollah as well as through various militias. There are also lots of Shia fighters from Iraq who are going to Syria in order to protect Shia holy shrines, it must be said though that they are not there to support Assad directly as his Baathist regime is very much like that of Saddam Hussein’s time in Iraq, which for obvious reasons doesn’t hold good memories for Iraqis. These Iraqi Shia fighters go because they get well paid and are able to support their families back in Iraq where economic conditions are terrible for many despite the vast oil wealth of the country. So Iran is paying poor Iraqis to go fight in Syria.
Al Qaeda is a rapidly strengthening force in Syria. When I was there back in the spring they really were not a problem, being very few in number. The last few months have changed all that. Now Syria is the number one place for them to go, they even call it a 5 star Jihad. Jihadii from all over the Muslim world are making their way to Syria to join Qaeda Although still far fewer in number than the moderate FSA, Qaeda are much better equipped and funded and working hard to take control of the north of Syria away from the FSA. In fact now the FSA has 2 battles on its hands, against Assad and against Qaeda.
What is interesting is that Qaeda are getting a lot of their heavy weapons from Libya. To get these weapons to Syria they have to be brought by sea and then landed in Turkey from where they make their way across the border. Smuggling large quantities of heavy weapons through a shipping port is no easy matter, particularly as the Turkish know what Qaeda are up to. But the fact is Qaeda are able to do this, which leads to the conclusion that Turkey is turning a blind eye to the situation and if Turkey know about it then you can be sure the USA knows about it too. So what is going on here, why would they allow this to happen?
This is my opinion based on my observations and interviews during a month in Syria and another month visiting Jordan and Lebanon, including refugee camps. It appears that Qaeda are being allowed to build up their strength and resources in Syria. In fact, Syria is being made to look such an attractive Jihad that as many Qaeda and associates as possible will go there to fight. They are leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Europe and the USA in droves, all heading to Syria, well equipped, well funded, ready to fight and die. Obviously, in the face of this, Iran is going to have to increase the resources it puts into keeping Assad in power. As I said before, this war is costing Iran a fortune and it is going to get much more expensive for them as Qaeda get stronger. This is why Iran agreed to the nuclear deal and the USA knows it. The strategy of the USA is to get Qaeda and Iran to fight each other to exhaustion in Syria. Let Qaeda and Iran build themselves up so they can have a proper war and really try to wipe each other out. As a result, this war is going to continue for some time and Syria as a country will be reduced to rubble even more than it is now. Of course, no thought is given to the ordinary Syrian people who continue to suffer terribly as a result of this Geo-political strategy.
Then we have Turkey. They are playing the long game. Like Iran they also have expansionist ambitions that hark back to the days of the Ottoman empire. At the moment they are biding their time, allowing Qaeda to build up its strength in Syria for its fight against the Iranian owned Assad regime. The plan is that when Iran and Qaeda eventually exhaust themselves and the land is left in ruins, the few Syrians who are left will not be able to put up any resistance as Turkey annexes the northern territory of Syria. Syria as a country will cease to exist in the form we know it today. However, Turkey isn’t the only country with ambitions to have a slice of Syria.
The role of Jordan in the Syrian conflict
Jordan is also playing its own games. The supply of weapons that are sent to the FSA in the south of Syria from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar all come through Jordan. However Jordan doesn’t pass on all the weapons that are destined for the FSA. It feeds through just a little, enough to keep the FSA fighting but no more. Also sometimes they play games such as mixing tracer rounds with standard ammunition. Tracer rounds give away your location when used and makes it easier to target you at night when fighting takes place. I was given this information directly by an FSA General.
Jordan is also trying to get the different rebel fighting brigades under their control. Let me explain how. There are many defected Syrian regime military officers now in Jordan. Some defected because they are against the regime but other simply because they were able to get their family and money out of the country and be able to protect their personal interests. Jordan has been trying, not very successfully at the moment, to insert these defected Syrian officers into the various rebel brigades, the largest of which in the south of Syria is the Liwa al Yarmouk brigade led by Bashar al Zoubi who I have met a couple of times in his home and also met Yasser al-Abboud who was the General before he was recently killed.
Anyway, the Jordanian idea is to dilute the authority of the FSA rebel commanders and bring them under their control. I know this as this is what many told me including Bashar al Zoubi and quite often the Jordanians will only give them supplies if they accept certain demands. This includes being told where they can and cannot attack. Obviously Jordan is working closely with the USA and the rebels being told where they can and cannot attack is a strategic decision that has as its ultimate aim the division of Syria also in the south. Let me explain why the ultimate objective is a divided Syria. So done, Syria will be a shadow of its former self and an Iranian controlled Assad regime can never be a threat to Israel. Jordan will never invade Syria to take control of the land in the south. What will happen is that as the Sunni, Shia and Regime forces fight each other to destruction in the north and center of the country, Jordan will offer nationality to those Syrians in the south and with it protection. In return Jordan will get access to the vast ground water resources that it so desperately needs. Before this can happen Jordan will eventually have to get rid of the various brigades leadership and replace them with their own selected people from among the the defected Syrian officers who are part of the Syrian military council in Amman run by Colonel Achmed al Namah.
Will Israel and Saudi Arabia attack Iran or not
In a word no. Short of a nuclear strike, Iranian facilities are so well buried under mountains that attacking is impractical and fraught with risk. Iran has very good Russian made air defense systems, which means that there is no guarantee a strike would work. Saudi Arabia simply doesn’t have the military capability to make such a strike. Only Israel could conceive of such an action but they wont. In the end it will not be necessary if all goes according to the plan of getting Qaeda and Iran to fight each other to exhaustion in Syria. And there are always cyber attacks to be used as a way of damaging Iranian infrastructure.
Syria talks in Geneva: Should Iran be involved
Any talks in Geneva will be fruitless. The rebels refuse to negotiate with the regime and also the moderate rebel commanders who have the power on the ground in Syria have not been included to take part. Those Syrians who claim to be the opposition are hardly recognized by the people on the ground. It makes no sense for there to be talks if Iran isn’t there because it is they who control Assad. Seeing as Iran is prepared to throw everything it has into keeping Assad in power any talks will be pointless.
How the middle east effects us: The Institutionalization of security and intelligence agencies and why they need the threat of terror and instability to justify their existence
I often hear people say that what happens in the middle east is nothing to do with them. Why should they care about a war far away between people who have different language, culture and religion be of any concern to us in the West. The fact is there is an indirect effect and it is a powerful one that effects us every day. The threat of terror and terrorist organizations and individuals are used as a reason for ever more surveillance of society. It has arrived at the point where all electronic communication is monitored. This mass monitoring of individuals has less to do with terrorism but rather with these organizations finding ways to justify their existence and growth. Allow me to explain.
It is interesting that when we look at different types of organizations, from charities and political parties to Intelligence services, they all have some vital things in common. They all start out with an objective and all the organizational effort is put into reaching the objective for which it was created. So a charity that looks after animal welfare or an intelligence organization that is tasked with protecting the country. As the organization becomes more successful it finds that its political and financial power increases as it grows in size and influence. What invariably happens next is a result of some interesting psychology. The organization develops an institutional mentality. What this means is that the continued growth and recognition of the organization becomes more important than the job it originally set out to do. This is also the time when those who are a part of the organization have to be much more conformist if they wish to continue working there. Internal rules and regulations become more important than the actual job. Creativity of thought and action is suppressed. Along with this you also have empire building within the organization as it moves from internal collaboration to protecting and developing internal power.
So we come back to the intelligence services. We see how they have become institutionalized. The report into the 9/11 attack shows that there was a lot of evidence beforehand of a planned attack and the report criticized the security services because of their internal conflicts of interest. The existence of the organization has become more important than its stated job. Internal empire building will mean that different elements will look for ever increased funding as they consolidate their positions. They are in competition with each other rather than genuinely collaborating. In order to justify increased funding they need to show two things; their successes, terrorist attacks they have stopped and their failures, it is the failures that will be used in combination with the success to ask for more money. If only we had more money for more resources then we could have stopped that particular attack.
So actually it serves the purpose of the intelligence services for there to be a high profile attack from time to time. I would say that the point has been reached where no matter how much money and new technology is pumped into security services the returns, stopping terrorist attacks, will be very much reduced due to ossifying institutionalization.
In the meantime, in combination with Geo-political strategy we see how the lives of ordinary people are counted as nothing, where governments consider their own citizens to be the enemy to be watched at all cost in case they try to change things.
Finally a look at government in general and why it is all subject to failure
Throughout human history we have tried pretty much every form of government that can be conceived. The track record isn’t good. What we are seeing now though is an ever greater disconnect between governments and the people they claim to govern. Governments are getting ever harder, iron-like and also more distant while the population is seen as something clay-like, to be molded and squeezed. The problem is that iron and clay really don’t mix and it wouldn’t take much to break that fragile bond. There is a lot more I can say about this but it will wait for another time.
I guess that those who follow my blog realize I have a particular interest in the middle east, I am fascinated by history and world events. Slowly, I’m putting an article together that looks at what is happening in the middle east at the moment, I am consulting many people who are very knowledgeable in their fields regarding what I am writing about. Things are starting to come together. The article, when it comes, is going to address the issues of:
The Iran nuclear deal.
Syria: Al Qaeda, the USA, Iran, Turkey.
Israel and Saudi Arabia attack Iran or not.
The role of Jordan in the Syrian conflict.
Syria talks in Geneva: Should Iran be involved?
How the middle east effects us: The Institutionalization of security and intelligence agencies and why they need the threat of terror and instability to justify their existence.
Finally a look at government in general and why it is all subject to failure.
It might take a couple of weeks or it might be a couple of months to answer the questions above, I already have the outline but now it is a question of the detail. Watch this space.
I came across this today and just had to share it. It is the work of Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto. Watch to the very end, the effect is stunning.
Each nation gets a blip and a flashing dot on the map whenever they detonate a nuclear weapon, with a running tally kept on the top and bottom bars of the screen. Hashimoto, who began the project in 2003, says that he created it with the goal of showing”the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.” It starts really slow — if you want to see real action, skip ahead to 1962 or so — but the buildup becomes overwhelming.
I have created a new page on my site called Syria: War and Refugees that brings together various links to my work in Syria. Links are ordered from oldest to newest. I hope you find it interesting if you haven’t already seen my work, both written and photographic.
I’ve just got my 1000th follower. I want to say a big thank you to everybody who follows my blog, whether it be for my general photography or for my work in Syria. I really appreciate all the comments that have been made and I will work to continue posting photos and articles that people will find of interest.
Makes you think
I am always in favour of fairness and letting all the different sides explain their point of view. My request is for a representative of the USA who actually knows what they are talking about and has authority to speak, to get in touch with me and talk about the situation in Syria openly and directly.
I’m writing this in public because my work is followed closely by various intelligence services and they have indicated as much. I want to bring the dialogue out of the shadows. Contact me through a channel I recognize.
Abdul Kader Salih the major leader of moderate rebel forces in Aleppo was injured and as a result died. When I was in Aleppo I spent a couple of days with the Al Tawheed brigade of which he was commander. He was very much the driving force and big ideas man who everybody looked to and united under. Because of his death it is going to be much easier for Al Qaeda forces in their objective of taking control of the entire city and surrounding areas. Jabhat al Nusra doesn’t exist anymore. The Islamist but non extremist element of them is now badly splintered, the rest of them have been absorbed by Al Qaeda.
It is a fact that Qaeda are bringing heavy weapons from such countries as Libya through Turkey. It isn’t the sort of thing that can easily be smuggled through international ports so Turkey must be turning a blind eye. The USA and Turkey are on good terms so it must be happening with tacit US approval. Why is this being allowed to happen?
The implication of this is that the moderate rebels are being deliberately sidelined with the objective of making this a religious war, which is what it has now become. Sunni vs Shia, and Iran will throw everything it has into maintaining Assad in power as their puppet. The aim of the USA is to allow Qaeda to grow in strength because it will force Iran, which is backing Assad to the hilt, to commit huge resources. The objective of the US is to make this war continue for as long as possible with the hope that Qaeda and Iran will exhaust themselves, with the result being that Iran’s sphere of influence and regional ambitions will be stymied and the majority of Qaeda’s resources will be concentrated in one area. It is a sort of evil genius that creates a strategy to make 2 of your biggest enemies fight each other to the finish.
Turkey is also storing up trouble for itself. In Turkey there are about 2 million Alawites, natural supporters of Assad who are becoming ever more unhappy at the actions of the Turkish government and their allowance of weapons to be moved to Qaeda in Syria. There is a real possibility of this becoming a regional war if the Turkish Alawites decide to take action. All my instincts are telling me that what is happening in Syria is going to spill over into other countries. There was the bomb attack at the Iranian embassy in a Hezzbollah controlled district of Beirut, this was carried out by those who want Iranian backed Hezzbollah to leave Syria. Events such as this will become more common. I can see how both Turkey and Lebanon can be drawn into the conflict.
It is a indictment of how rotten global politics is when Geo-political strategy is given priority but not a single thought is ever given to the ordinary people who suffer the consequences.
Yesterday evening I had the vernissage for my exhibition; Syria: Facing the revolution, which is curated by Professor Johanna Fassl.
It was an interesting evening that generated a lot of conversation. Mustafa, who I travelled with to Syria, flew in specifically for the show. As a result of my work, I have been invited to take my exhibition to Oxford University in March, a representative of the university was at the show and said they would very much like to have me and my work at a big international conference on the worldwide refugee situation. Watch this space.