Feb 21 2008
I tripped across this news that one day after the assassination of Hezbollah leader Mughniyeh in Damascus President Bush signed an order freezing the assets of Assad cousin and leading Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf.
The Treasury Department said the sanctions would be imposed on Rami Makhluf, who was identified as a prominent Syrian businessman and close to the country’s Baath regime.
The Treasury Department order freezes any assets that Makhluf holds in U.S. financial institutions and prohibits U.S. citizens and firms from engaging in any business contacts with him.
Makhluf is the first cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and is considered one of the most powerful and influential businessmen in Syria. The 39-year-old controls the country’s mobile phone network, SyriaTel, as well as other lucrative businesses.
Bush signed the executive order on Feb. 13, one day after Imad Mughniyah, one of the world’s most wanted and elusive terrorists, was killed in a car bombing in Syria nearly 15 years after dropping from sight.
A little googling and we find some of those ‘other lucrative businesses’ include owning ports which can be used to smuggle things – like weapons.
After Bachar al-Assad used his position as a Head of State to steal the countryâ€™s resources and entrust his relatives, Rami and Mohamed Makhouf, with all big economic projects, he now wants a legal cover for his exactions. So he adopted a series of decisions that entitles the private sector to invest in the public sector; that is how Rami Makhlouf was able to rent the port in Tartous using a Filipino company he owns. And what does this mean? This means that thousands of employees would lose their jobs and that the customs officers no longer have any power on products that enter the Syrian soil. This will soon be the case of the Ladikiyyeh Port, as is today the case of all duty free markets. And you do of course know that duty free markets are the best place to smuggle high custom duties and therefore make huge amounts of illicit money.
Rami Makhlouf was also given the chance to establish his own Airline, condemning to bankruptcy the Syrian Airlines so that al-Assadâ€™s corrupted family could then control air transport as it is today controlling all road transports.
Well it did not take much more searching to link this man who can ship material by land and sea without government interference to weapons smuggling:
Col. Hafiz Makhluf , a senior official in the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate and a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, is also revealed here as the Assad clanâ€™s senior contact-man with the Syrian tycoon Rami Makhluf and controller of the sale and transfers of Syrian weapons to terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
Nice to have a brother who heads the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. This Examiner article from 2006 was very prescient in naming names and identifying a secret Syrian nuclear program:
The Iraq Survey Group is calling for open negotiations with Syria, but new reports show that Damascus is up to no good. Indeed, while world attention is rightly focused on the nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea, Syria has been quietly â€” but quickly â€” advancing its own secret nuclear program.
But what really broke the camelâ€™s back was a recent report from the well-informed Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al Seyassah. It quoted European intelligence sources as saying that â€œSyria has an advanced nuclear programâ€ in a secret site located in the province of Al Hassaka, close to the Turkish and Iraqi borders. British sources quoted by the paper believe that â€œit is President Assadâ€™s brother, Colonel Maher Assad and his cousin Rami Makhlouf, who supervise the program.â€
Why is the US only now taking actions against this madman? We all know the recent news about the nuclear site Israel blew up in Syria. Also recall there were suggestions that Mughniyah was in Damascus to discuss attacks on neighboring Arab states with Iran, Syria and Islamic Jihad. This must be a warning to Assad and his cronies to step back from the brink and get control of something before things get real bad. BTW – is it coincidence that Makhlouf owns Syria’s largest mobile phone company with service into Lebanon? I think not.