Hans' News and Politics Blog

A Blog of Conservative News, Politics, and Foreign Affairs

Monday, October 31, 2005

Are the rats leaving a sinking ship?

According to this NYTimes story there might be an exodus of high-ranking Syrian officials in progress.

During a United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri that threatens the power of President Bashar al-Assad, a first cousin who is one of the most powerful businessmen in Syria has left the country.

While it remains unclear why the president's cousin, Rami Makhluf, left - his allies say he is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, working on the expansion of his business empire - many people with close connections to the ruling Baath Party say his departure underscores the investigation's threat to the Assad family's grip on power.


Should the Security Council demand that the two be turned over for trial, President Assad would most probably have to resist or face turmoil in a system that is not governed by strong institutions, but instead by individuals, several experts said.

In this environment, Mr. Makhluf's departure has been seen as a sign that those at the core of the country's power structure recognize their vulnerability, and fear that a showdown with the Security Council could spell disaster for them.

"I think that this is the most important challenge facing Syria in its recent history," said Fayez Sara, a Syrian political analyst and writer. "And if the Syrian government or authorities do not handle the issue well, it can in fact lead to a crisis."

The Makhluf family is at the center of the power structure. It controls a business empire including a bank, the duty-free zones at the border and most of Syria's cellphone service. President Assad's mother is a Makhluf and her brother, Muhammad, is Rami Makhluf's father.


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