Gangs of young men, some armed with swords and hunting rifles, were reported to be roaming the streets of Latakia, Syria on Sunday. After security forces killed anywhere from 50-100 demonstrators with demonstrations beginning in Daraa, Syria; anarchy is rising. Roaming gangs in Latakia closed alleys with barricades and roughly interrogated passersby in streets.
The worst violence apparently occurred in Latakia, a coastal city that is a mix of Sunnis living in the urban center, and members of Assad’s minority Alawite branch of Shiite Islam, along with small minorities of Christians, ethnic Turks and other groups, are located in villages on Latakia’s outskirts.
Two police cars were reported smashed and rocks and telephone cables torn from overhead utility poles were strewn across the streets and sidewalks near Latakia’s main Sheik Daher square. The offices of SyriaTel, which provides mobile telecommunications services in 99% of populated areas and provides SURF Wireless Broadband, was burned. A major owner of the mobile phone company is a first cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, powerful businessman Rami Makhlouf. Reports and business analysts have revealed that Makhlouf controls all foreign business in Syria by requiring his consent and partnership. Makhlouf exerted his influence to get a law passed that denied Mercedes the right to import parts in Syria until Maklouf was made the exclusive agent.
In February 2008, the US Treasury Department designated Makhlouf as a beneficiary and facilitator of public corruption in Syria with improper government connections that allowed him to control certain profitable commodities contracts.
“Rami Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Asad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians. 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.”
— Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Like other governments that have offered concessions, President Bashar Assad is expected to announce Tuesday that he is lifting a nearly 50-year state of emergency and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.
Rami Makhluf Designated for Benefiting from Syrian Corruption
Washington, DC − 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.
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.
President George W. Bush issued E.O. 13460 on February 13, 2008 to take additional measures to address the threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by certain conduct of the Government of Syria.
This new authority builds on E.O. 13338, which was issued by President Bush in May 2004, by targeting activities that entrench and enrich the Syrian regime and its cohorts thereby enabling the regime to continue to engage in threatening behavior, including actions that undermine efforts to stabilize Iraq. Corruption by the regime also reinforces efforts that deny the people of Syria political freedoms and economic prosperity, undercut peace and stability in the region, fund terrorism and violence, and undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon.
Pursuant to E.O. 13460, any assets that Makhluf holds under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in business or transactions with Makhluf.
AKAs: MAKHLOUF, Rami
MAKHLOUF, Rami Bin Mohammed
MAKHLOUF, Rami Mohammad
DOB: July 10, 1969
Passport Number: Syrian, 98044
Rami Makhluf is a powerful Syrian businessman who amassed his commercial empire by exploiting his relationships with Syrian regime members. Makhluf has manipulated the Syrian judicial system and used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate his business rivals. He employed these techniques when trying to acquire exclusive licenses to represent foreign companies in Syria and to obtain contract awards.
Makhluf is the maternal cousin of President Bashar al-Asad and through this relationship, Makhluf has become a focal point of Syria’s telecommunications, commercial, oil, gas and banking sectors. Despite President Asad’s highly publicized anti-corruption campaigns, Makhluf remains one of the primary centers of corruption in Syria.
Makhluf’s influence with certain Syrian government officials has led to his being able to control the issuance of certain types of profitable commodities contracts. His close business associations with some Syrian cabinet ministers have enabled him to gain access to lucrative oil exploration and power plant projects. Makhluf’s preferential access to Syrian economic sectors has led to complaints about him from members of the Syrian business community.
Makhluf is the brother of Syrian General Intelligence Directorate official Hafiz Makhluf, who was previously designated under E.O. 13441.
President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar al-Assad (Born September 11, 1965) is also Regional Secretary of the Ba’ath Party, and the son of former President Hafez al-Assad. Al-Assad is a controversial figure both in Syria and Internationally. He has been criticized for his disregard for human rights, economic lapses, sponsorship of terrorism, and corruption. Al-Assad is an outspoken critic of the United States and Israel. Under Assad’s leadership, Syria has tightened Internet censorship with laws that force Internet cafes to record all the comments users post on chat forums. Radio stations may play Western pop music, but websites such as Wikipedia, Youtube, Facebook and Amazon have been blocked.
The 2011 protests that began March 18-19, 2011 were the largest to take place in Syria for decades. In February 1982, Hafez al-Assad ordered the Syrian army to bombard the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Hama massacre resulted in the death of an estimated 17,000 to 40,000 people, including about 1,000 soldiers. The Syrian army bombarded Hama to counter a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Hama massacre became the climax event of Muslim Brotherhood insurgency campaign that began in 1976. The Arab nationalist, Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party of Syria and the conservative Muslim Brotherhood had clashed in Syria since 1940.
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ABC News/Associated Press Gangs of Armed Young Men Roam Syrian Seaside City