Across the Bay

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Assad's Cousin, Rami Makhlouf, Designated

Pursuant to President Bush's latest EO, the Treasury Department has designated Assad's cousin, and Syria's one-man economy, Rami Makhlouf:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Rami Makhluf, a powerful Syrian businessman and regime insider whom improperly benefits from and aids the public corruption of Syrian regime officials. This action was taken today pursuant to Executive Order 13460, which targets individuals and entities determined to be responsible for or who have benefited from the public corruption of senior officials of the Syrian regime.

"Rami Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Asad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians," said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. "The Asad regime's cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing policies, including beyond Syria's borders, in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories."

Syria is well known for its corrupt business environment, which denies the Syrian people economic prosperity and other freedoms. The considerable role the Asad family, their inner circle, and the Syrian security services exert over the economy, coupled with the absence of a free judicial system and the lack of transparency, concentrates wealth in the hands of certain classes and individuals. In turn, these classes and individuals depend upon this corrupt system for their success and fortune. Syrians without these connections are unable to improve their economic standing, and suffer as a result of policies implemented by an unaccountable regime.

Sometime when I'm in the mood for comedy, I'll relate to you some of Makhlouf's tales, like how he used the Syrian courts, where his brother Ihab was the appointed judge, to shaft Orascom, which helped him set up SyriaTel, Syria's mobile phone network, which he controls. In 2001, during what is pathetically called the Damascus "spring," when Riad Seif released a study exposing Makhlouf (not the mythical "old guard" as the Bashar propagandists would have it) over the mobile network monopoly, he got sentenced to 5 years in jail. It's all part of the economic "reform" that's sweeping across Syria, as the regime flacks and hired hands keep selling us.

Rami's other brother, Hafez, a senior official in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, was previously designated by Treasury as well.

On a related note, there were reports that the place where Imad Mughniyeh was staying in Damascus was owned by one of Rami Makhlouf's business associates, Nader Qal'i. What that would mean is that Mughniyeh was personally patronized by Bashar's inner-most circle.

That's why Syria is called Terror Central, regardless of the lies and/or pathetically clueless protestations of apologists, useful idiots, and Imad Mustapha lackeys everywhere.