How Assad’s allies got $18 million from United Nations
if($('.nav-wrapper').width()<728){ google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8530768961177157"; google_ad_slot = "8024336238"; google_ad_width = 300; google_ad_height = 250; } else { google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8530768961177157"; google_ad_slot = "1705860969"; google_ad_width = 728; google_ad_height = 90; }

How Assad’s allies got $18 million from United Nations

Four Seasons hotel in Damascus. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Orient Net - Bloomberg Politics
Date: 2017-08-01 14:54
The United Nations paid at least  million last ‎year to companies with close ties to Bashar al-‎Assad, some of them run by Assad cronies ‎despite the fact of being on US and European ‎Union blacklists.‎

Contracts for telecommunications and security ‎were awarded to regime insiders including Rami ‎Makhlouf, Assad’s cousin. UN staff ran up a .5 ‎million bill at the Four Seasons hotel in ‎Damascus, co-owned by Assad tourism ministry, ‎according to the UN’s annual report on ‎procurement for 2016, a 739-page document ‎published in June. Some UN money even went ‎to a charity set up by Bashar Assad wife.‎

The UN has its own global blacklist and isn’t ‎bound by sanctions imposed by member states ‎or regional blocs such as the EU. Still, the ‎distribution of funds to Assad allies will further ‎fuel criticism that the world body has failed badly ‎over Syria, where more than six years of war ‎have left at least 400,000 people dead.‎

UN bodies have repeatedly condemned the ‎Assad atrocities. Western and Arab nations put ‎most of the blame on Assad, yet the veto power ‎wielded by Russia, a supporter of the Assad ‎regime, has prevented the UN Security Council ‎from endorsing tougher action or adding Assad ‎cronies to its blacklist.‎

‎“Any money going to Assad and his allies shows ‎that the UN is not impartial but is in fact helping ‎the largest player in the conflict,’’ said Kathleen ‎Fallon, a spokeswoman for The Syria Campaign, ‎an independent advocacy group. “The regime ‎has been responsible for the majority of the ‎deaths, and they are being rewarded. It sends ‎the wrong message.’’‎

UN officials point to the difficulty of operating ‎outside the auspices of governments in ‎countries such as Syria, and the premium placed ‎on protecting its staff. In 2003, when the U.S. ‎invasion of Iraq had begun evolving into a war ‎with parallels to the Syrian conflict, UN envoy ‎Sergio Vieira de Mello and several members of ‎his staff were killed by a car-bomb attack on the ‎Baghdad hotel they were using as a base.‎

The UN spent 0 million on goods and services ‎in Syria last year, according to the report.‎

Syriatel, which belongs to Makhlouf, was paid ‎‎4,300 by three different UN bodies including ‎the refugee agency UNHCR and the children’s ‎relief organization UNICEF. Another UN agency, ‎the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for ‎Palestine, paid 5,043 to Qasioun, a security ‎firm he owns.‎

‎‘Mr. 10 Percent’‎

Makhlouf, one of Syria’s richest businessmen, ‎has been on the US Treasury’s blacklist since ‎‎2008. Qasioun was specifically listed by the ‎Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in ‎December.‎

He’s “known as Mr. 10 percent in Syria because ‎he has an interest in so much of the economy,” ‎said Joshua Landis, a Syria expert who heads the ‎Center of Middle East Studies at Oklahoma ‎University. “The key to getting anything done in ‎Syria is to grease the palms of the powerful.’’‎

Muhammad Hamsho, another regime insider, ‎was added to the US sanctions list in 2011. The ‎EU followed suit in 2015, saying he “benefits ‎from and provides support to the Assad regime ‎through his business interests.’’‎

‎‘You Don’t Know’‎

A Treasury spokesman said that US sanctions on ‎Syria “prohibit American persons from engaging ‎in a wide range of transactions, and block the ‎Assad regime from certain activities,’’ while ‎declining to comment on specific companies.‎

Linda Robinson, a senior policy analyst at Rand ‎Corp., said the UN’s “reputation has been ‎damaged’’ over Syria.‎

Meanwhile, UN efforts to bring food and ‎medical relief to Syria have been physically ‎targeted by Assad’s regime -- and also criticized ‎by his opponents.‎

Last September, Assad planes bombed an aid ‎convoy carrying medicine and supplies to the city ‎of Aleppo, then under siege by Assad’s army ‎and since captured from the rebels.‎

‎‘Get Things Done’‎

But Syrian and international non-governmental ‎organizations have complained that aid has ‎disproportionately gone to Assad-controlled ‎areas. They received 88 percent of food aid ‎distributed from Damascus in April 2016, ‎according to a World Food Program report. In ‎September, 73 NGOs wrote to the UN ‎condemning the manipulation of relief efforts.‎

One local group that handled aid deliveries is the ‎Syria Trust for Development, a charity headed by ‎Asma al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s wife. It was ‎awarded 1,129 last year by the UN Office for ‎the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.‎

‎“The UN wants to be as close as possible to the ‎regime to get things done,’’ said Reinoud ‎Leenders, an associate professor at the ‎Department of War Studies at King’s College in ‎London. Still, he said, it’s “puzzling’’ that the UN ‎is ignoring American blacklists. “Especially ‎considering that the US is its main funder.’’‎

Related

google_ad_client = "ca-pub-8530768961177157"; google_ad_slot = "4041467030"; google_ad_width = Math.floor($('.col.m12').first().innerWidth()/10)*10-30; google_ad_height = 90;
Russian warplanes kill at least nine civilians in Aleppo countryside .Russian-Assad bombing killed five, injures dozens of civilians in Aleppo countryside on Monday .Assad militias shell Idlib and Aleppo countryside despite claimed ceasefire .Russian air strikes kill four members of single family in Aleppo countryside .Opposition fighters warn civilians against approaching Assad positions in Aleppo .Opposition fighters destroy, capture Assad tanks in Syria’s Idlib .Assad militiamen killed, injured in Idlib countryside .Landmine kills civilian in Deir ez-Zoor .Demonstrations rock Syria’s Sweida .Idlib demonstrators call to overthrow Assad regime .Demonstrators near Omari mosque in Daraa call for release of Syrian detainees .Syrian pound crashes to record low .UN: Syria ceasefire has failed as civilians killed daily .UN: 700,000 Syrians displaced in 8 months .379,000 civilians flee Russian-Assad offensive in Idlib .UNICEF calls to protect Syrian children from carnage in Idlib .Three Turkish soldiers killed in car bomb attack in Syria’s Tel Abyad .Turkey could move further in Syria, Erdogan says .Protesters pile pressure on Iranian regime .377 wounded in Lebanon as protesters clash with security forces