The Makhlouf Dynasty: Assad’s Bloodshed Financier
-Nearly 1000 people have died and upwards of 10,000 dissidents have been detained in Syria‘s eight week uprising. Anthony Shadid stole across the border of Lebanon into Syria for an interview with the Syrian tycoon associated with the Assad regime‘s ferocious crackdown in over a dozen cities. In the resultant May 10 New York Times interview, Rami Makhlouf (pictured) advised the international community to back off the Assad regime in Syria or expect a destabilized regional picture. According to Makhlouf, one of 13 Assad associates recently sanctioned by the European Union, the Syrian regime was ready to fight “to the end.”
This government for 40 years has relied on the Alawite sect to buttress itspower. And I think the thinking within the government, in particular the ruling elite is that the fall of the government means perhaps the extermination of the Alawite sect in Syria. I think that is why you are hearing language that suggests a fight to the end, a fight for survival…. If this government falls no one is going to protect the Alawites; no one is going to protect other minorities in the country. And it’s an argument that the government has relentlessly used since this uprising began. The alternative to us is chaos. The alternative to us is sectarian strife – even civil war – and it has had some resonance among minorities in the country.
Following the release of the NYT exposé, the Syrian Ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, characterized Rami Makhlouf’s remarks as those of a private citizen who does not speak on behalf of the authorities in Syria. Yet the EU’s official journal of May 6, 2011 charges Makhlouf with bankrolling the Assad regime’s activities.
In late April, the UK Telegraph’s Adrian Blomfield noted that upwards of 60% of the Syrian economy is believed controlled by Makhlouf. This explains why demonstrators have been burning down Syriatel offices in Syria, chanting “Go away Makhlouf. We don’t want thieves.” Indeed, it is unlikely that a communications blackout could be effectively implemented without Rami Makhlouf’s control of mobile phone networks in the country.