How will his 2015 be?

He was so happy for me to take his picture, his heart was so warm and genuine despite his circumstance. Photo in Amman, Jordan

Happy New Year

Happy New Year


My latest Press Release


INFORMATION CONTACT: Russell Chapman: info ( at)

Photographer seeks funding to document how Syrian refugees in Jordan are rebuilding their lives

Russell Chapman is a freelance photographer who spent a month in Syria last year covering the violence in that country. He also visited Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon and was impressed and surprised by the warmth of the people despite the hardships they were suffering. After his trip, Chapman published a book of photographs called “Refugees and Rebels” and talked about his experiences during international conferences at Franklin University in Switzerland, Oxford University in England and the Conference of Forced Migration in Washington, D.C. Now he wants to return to Syria to document a side of this situation which has received less attention, the way in which Syrian refugees in Jordan are rebuilding their lives. Russell Chapman has established an Indiegogo campaign requesting donations to fund this trip, 06. The campaign will remain open for donations through September 24, 2014.

Huge numbers of Syrians are now refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The United Nations has registered more than 600,000 refugees in Jordan. The majority of them live in urban areas in the north of Jordan and the rest are in refugee camps. The Jordan refugee camp Za’tari is the second largest refugee camp in the world. The Syrian civil war has had a dramatic impact upon Northern Jordan because it started right across the border. At the start of this conflict many Syrians went to live with relatives in Jordan; but, as the trouble escalated, thousands of Syrians without relatives in Jordan began to go there for help.

Russell Chapman wants to return to Jordan to gather photos and other material for a second book documenting “Syrian Refugees: The Human Story”, how they are finding ways to rebuild their lives. He plans to donate 20% of all profits from the book and sale of photographic works to buy medicine for the Syrian refugees. Many cannot afford the medicines they need, especially for the children, so this project will provide direct benefit to those who need it. Chapman has stayed in contact with many of the refugees he met on the first trip. He plans to follow up with them as well as meet with new Syrians to see how their lives have changed in the last year. Most photographers find an opportunity such as he had last year to be a “one and done” situation. Russell Chapman is in a position to document the next step, give a voice to those who have suffered so much. New crises seem to arise throughout the world every day. Nearly half the Syrian population has been displaced. “Syrian Refugees: the Human Story” seeks to bring a different narrative to the problem, one that shows the humanity of ordinary Syrians and demonstrates how, with the right help, they can rebuild their lives.

In addition to publication of the book, the photographer plans to schedule a series of exhibitions in the United States and Europe similar to the ones he arranged following his first trip. Some of those photos can be seen in the gallery on the campaign site.

For complete information about Russell Chapman’s project to complete the second half of his documentation of the lives and hopes of Syrian refugees in Jordan, go to 06.

Links across the internet to this press release:

The Middle East & the Geo-political games being played in Syria

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. It has been suggested to me by some FSA commanders that they would even consider working together with certain Shia militia to fight together against Qaeda as it is a mutual enemy before continuing to fight each other. I know many of you reading this will find it hard to understand but it this how the middle east has worked for a very long time. I would be very curious to see what might happen if the moderate Sunni and Shia joined forces to fight them. They might realize that they can actually get on together, who knows. They are really worried about Qaeda, if they were to take control it would not be enough to be a good Muslim, not smoking or drinking and praying five times a day. No, nor would it be enough to stay quiet and let Qaeda run the country. No,Qaeda would expect the people to join them, when I say join them I mean as fighters. If you refuse, you are seen as a traitor and they will kill you, as simple as that. If they get control of the country, the people will be forced to become fighters to be sent to other countries. If you are not with them 100% then you are the enemy. This is why the moderate Sunni rebels are prepared to consider making some unusual alliances.

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 inside Syria and really try to wipe each other out.Not that the USA or others are looking to see Iran as a country destroyed but rather that its expansionist ambitions are severely curtailed. 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. One final point, at the moment there isn’t a big problem with Qaeda and other extremist factions in the south but if there were then Jordan would give direct help to the FSA to help defeat them. After, Jordan would continue with its original plans.

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.

Some info about the ‘FSA’ fighters being trained and equipped by the USA in Jordan

There has been some reporting of moderate Free Syria Army fighters being trained by the USA at camps in Jordan. While it is true that the USA is setting up and training brigades in Jordan, they are not FSA. Let me elaborate.

As the war has progressed, quite a few military officers from the Syrian regime have defected, some genuinely to the FSA but many not. Many, not because they are against the regime but simply because they are trying to protect themselves and keep their finances intact. Principal among these is Colonel Achmed al Namah. He is leader of the military council that is set up in Amman, Jordan. He runs this council that has many of these defected Syrian officers as its members.

It is with this military council that the USA is working and setting up fighting brigades.These brigades are led by the defected officers and the fighters are bought and paid for, mostly those who are unacceptable to the FSA due to their unsavory background.

What has been the results of these brigades? Despite the fact that they are very well equipped they are proving to be quite useless as fighting units but to be honest that seems to be the intention. It seems the purpose of these brigades is nothing more than to try and dilute the real FSA. The USA and Jordan are also using coercive tactics to try and get as many of the defected Syrian officers into positions of command as possible of the genuine FSA brigades. Doing so will weaken them and put them under the influence of the USA. Cut the heads off the command structures of the FSA in Southern Syria, insert ex Syrian regime military commanders which will then be controlled by the USA and Jordan. It seems the ultimate purpose for this is to create an option, a new autonomous area in the south of Syria run by senior defected military commanders who can be easily influenced by the USA.

Syria: US intervention, Iran and Russia

First there was a lot of talk about the USA and others finally getting directly involved in the Syrian conflict, beyond the help they are already giving to the Sunni rebels with regard to intelligence and satellite imagery. They are only helping in a limited way though, they tell the rebels directly which targets they will help with and which they wont. Now it seems the USA and UK are back-tracking as they realize that the minimum action required to have any sort of effect would actually have to be a major military operation, it would mean having to get into a war that they would not be able to win.

Syrian air defense systems are strong and the Russians are sending some of their navy to the Syrian coastal area and would probably also use these to shoot down any missiles that are targeted at Syria. Then there is Iran, they are pretty much in charge of Syria now and running the show. Assad has become little more than a figurehead, he is paying the price for allowing the Iranians to have so much influence since he came to power. It was the Iranians who were the masterminds of the chemical weapon attack in Syria and have control over the country’s stockpile of CW. I would not be at all surprised if they aren’t also moving some of their long range ballistic missiles into Syria. These have a range of up to 3000km. Strategically and operationally this would open up a lot of new possibilities for them.

What we are seeing now is the development of an axis of power, Russia and Iran are fully prepared to protect their interests in the middle east and have the full capability to resist any efforts by the USA to challenge them. I don’t know if Syria has taken delivery of the S-300 system yet but if it has then this would make any action by the USA much more risky. It is very similar to the Patriot air defense system run by the USA The S-300 missile system is designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles at a range of 5-to-150 kilometers. It can also track and strike multiple targets simultaneously at altitudes ranging from 10 meters to 27,000 meters. It is a serious bit of kit. If the Syrians have got any of these then attack options are going to be limited. The other danger is that if Syria do have this new system then there will be Russian advisers showing the Syrians how to use it, it takes time to learn how to use it and Russia always sends people to the country that has bought it. Imagine what could happen if the USA were to destroy one of these as a prelude to flying its planes over the country. If any Russian advisers were killed then the situation would bring the USA and Russia into a very dangerous place. This is my hypothetical musing but Syria has a contract to buy these things with a delivery of no later than spring 2014 so it is worth asking the question “what if”

Iran has long held hegemonic ambitions, it is in control of large areas of Iraq, President Maliki of Iraq is in the pocket of the Iranians, Lebanon is also ripe for the taking, Hezbollah is a proxy Iranian operation, the country is essentially without government and is seen by the Iranians as a country they should have control over. So what’s next? You need to get inside the heads of the Iranians to understand their ambitions. They really want to re-establish the Persian empire and will work in all sort of cunning ways to achieve their goals. Jordan is one of the countries in its sights.  Let me explain what I believe to be their strategy. This is my personal opinion and I am aware I could be totally wrong so here goes.

First: The war in Syria is creating huge numbers of refugees, many of these are going to Jordan, this is creating a strong destabilizing effect on the country and putting enormous pressure on its resources, economy and population, Jordan is not a rich country. The way the war in Syria is being executed by the Iranians has a deliberate aim of creating as many refugees as possible with the knowledge that many will go to Jordan.

Second: The south of Syria is slowly being abandoned by the Syrian regime and Iranians. They are still fighting the rebels but they are not concentrating their efforts here, they are however creating as much damage as possible which is driving the ordinary Syrians out and toward Jordan. The impression is being given that the only part of Syria that is truely important is the west of the country, from Damascus to Homs, Tartus and Latakia as far as the Turkish border with everything else slowly being abandoned.

Third: This is where I get to what I believe this is all about. In the south of Syria there are huge fresh ground water resources. Jordan under huge strain, politically and economically due to the refugee situation will see, at some point in the not so distant future, that the south of Syria has been abandoned by the Syrians and Iranians and attempt to annex this land. They will do this because of the water that they need and also to repatriate many of the refugees. But this is a trap, when Jordan tries to do this the Iranians will be waiting. I believe that the appearance of giving up on the south of Syria to the rebels is a trap to draw in the Jordanians. Jordan has long been part of an international plan to split Syria into different parts and the Iranians will use this plan against them. There is absolutely no intention of giving up land, it is seen as part of the future Persian empire. So when Jordan makes its move it will be hit very hard by the Iranians, who will also have the support of the Russians. The effect of Jordan having its military destroyed inside Syria as well as its bases attacked inside Jordan will be devastating. And because Jordan made the first move, believing the south of Syria had been abandoned, the Syrian regime and Iranians will be able to say that they were protecting Syrian sovereignty. The Jordanian monarchy will collapse without the use of its military and the country will be thrown into chaos. The monarchy controls pretty much everything in the country, when they go there will be a huge vacuum which the Iranians will use to assert themselves through the figurehead of the Syrian regime. They will have a ‘legitimate’ excuse, Jordan invaded first.

Assuming things happen this way then the entire northern border of Saudi Arabia will be surrounded by countries under the control of Iran, Iraq and Jordan. Iran’s ultimate ambition is to take over the Gulf states, gaining control of Jordan will be the first step in that game. Also Israel will be surrounded to the north and east. We live in interesting times.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I was in Syria for a month back in March/April. I’m very well connected in the country and still have regular contact in order to get updates on what is happening. This blog post is a little different. I have been analyzing the situation for some time and decided to stick my neck out and give my opinion on where I think all of this is going. I know I might be wrong but hopefully I have given you something to think about. If you have any questions, comments or need something clarified then please ask me.