[Marxism] Fwd: Syria: Al-Assad Family's Massive Stolen Wealth in Panama Papers helps explain Revolution

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Apr 6 06:54:01 MDT 2016

(Never published before by Juan Cole. Better late than never.)

Governance in Syria under the Baath Party resembled the rings of an 
onion. The outer ring was the party, which incorporated Sunni 
businessmen and farmers, Christians, Druze (an esoteric Shiite sect), 
and the Alawites (another esoteric Shiite sect). The upper echelons of 
the party and the officer corps were disproportionately dominated by 
members of the minority Alawite sect. (The Alawite form of Shi’ite Islam 
has more folk elements and is less bookish, clerical and formal than the 
Twelver Shiite branch that dominates Iraq and Iran). The very inner 
circle was the al-Assad extended family or jama`at al-Assad. The 
al-Assad clan had opportunities to benefit from insider trading 
practices, given that they controlled government economic policy, and to 
receive business licenses and contracts. Already in the time of Hafez 
al-Assad, his propensity for promoting his friends and relatives 
inspired other members of his junta to do likewise. His longtime foreign 
minister and then vice president, `Abd al-Halim Khaddam, the informal 
viceroy of Lebanon, developed front companies in that country. He became 
a fixture in Beirut night clubs. He developed a close relationship to 
Lebanese-Saudi billionaire Rafiq al-Hariri, who made a gift to him of 
one of Aristotle Onassis’s former apartments in Paris and set him up in 
the telecommunications business. Hariri also brought Khaddam’s two sons 
into business ventures in Saudi Arabia, where he had made his money.[x] 
Hafez al-Assad’s Sunni minister of defense, Mustafa Talas (usually 
spelled Tlass in the Western press), had one son who became a big 
businessman, Firas. Firas had extensive holdings in real estate, food 
distribution, and banking, and was said to among the richest men in the 
country. The other, Manaf, became a general in the army (he defected to 
the opposition in July, 2012).[xi]


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