Businessmen and BusinessMobs (4 of 5) The Bandits Rule Ahead of the Ultimate Fire
Weeks before the start of the Syrian revolution, I received a phone call in my office in Brussels from the "businessman" Ayman Jaber. He was trying to lure me into coming to Damascus through playing on the yearning ambitions of the businessman inside me. I said “NO”’; as I already reached a firm conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad had issued the death sentence on me, after the miscarriage of my negotiations with Manaf Tlass in August 2010.
Noting that Ayman Jaber is an Alawi and is a brother-in-law to the Al-Assad family, who with the onset of the Arab Spring and out of fear and in anticipation of the uprising of the Syrian revolution, originated, organized, and funded personally affiliated groups of Shabbiha brigades.
It is worth noting here that the Arab Spring countries share several factors in the wake of their uprising. The most crucial of which is the rampant corruption eating at a discretely chosen clique of the ruler’s kin and relatives; a clique cooked up, transformed into a business class, and affiliated with the regime. A clique that dominated the economy, the trade, as well as the community’s daily bread at large. I tend to consider this kind of corruption the main cause of the witnessed forceful outbreak in the Arab Spring. These cliques are all alike in banditry, whether it may be in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen; a sample of which Ayman Jaber, Muhammad Hamsho, and Makhlouf stand representative, along with Ahmed Ezz in Egypt and the family members of Leila Trabelsi, the wife of Ben Ali in Tunisia, a hairdresser who by a stroke of luck turned into a first lady wreaking havoc on the Tunisians’ livelihood.
It was surprising how quickly these countries went collapsing. Those who may think that the Arab Spring is no longer alive are mistaken. It is just a warrior taking a breath. The next round will be more forceful and more organized, "… And those who have wronged are going to know to what
It’s a serious flaw of thought for one to think that any of those regimes had come into being inadvertently or by sheer coincidence. Notwithstanding the claim they profess, altogether with their elite and the media mercenaries, pretending to be intellectuals, and saying that they are the by-product of backward Arab societies. A context in which the Al-Assad cliques label themselves by saying: “We are not righteous, but we are just one of you and like you.” Base liars. The power that be which had intentionally brought them to the commanding seat in order to act as substitutes for the emerging real Arab state political institutions introduced them as an act of forging the political institutions with a view for them to further forge everything in our communities, on top of which the business leaders stand. Along this line, whoever may have familiarized himself with the history of the business leaders and entrepreneurship in Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria can tell that before the hatching of these BusinessMobs, the said leaders had begun forming an open society and building up countries that sought to be an advanced player in the global GDP scene. They built up culture and art houses, through which they spread their refined intellects; an approach which the intellectuals called at that period of history,
(The fantastic time)! The strange thing about the BusinessMobs is that they themselves attacked the businessmen class who fashioned that culture and considered them reactionary and backward (!?). That was before the military scum came to power and in the effect of which our well-renowned lofty Arab communities started plunging towards deformation and regression, and turned into ooze pus stinking swamps.
These regimes had nothing to nurture on save as pursuing a policy of fear and buccaneering to survive. Never had they any concern towards the progress and development of the state institutions, and hence ruled with tyranny and brutality to put on a show of a strong and stable order, until the moment has suddenly come to prove otherwise and render them rootless. At this point, the violence and chaos would reach up to the peak, and there will be no time to do much; because it will be too late. Even for those cliques who were subject to deception by these regimes, who turned into fanatics after swallowing their sectarian beliefs and echoed their revengeful cries, such as the Alawite and the Shiite militias; better be named for accuracy the mob class which they have reared up in implementing the fear and buccaneering policy.
A class they designed as a line of defense for their rule, the rule of bandits. When that moment comes these mobs will realize that they have lost the battle, that they have been fooled up, and are no more than a cheap plaything tool that had little benefits to gain at the expense of their own dead future as well as the future of their siblings; at that moment those countries would have collapsed just like sands castles a child builds on the beach, " As if they had never prospered therein!" Just listen to the slogans the Iraqi militia members protesters cry against their leaders and the heads of the ruling parties in Iraq and Lebanon nowadays and compare how they fought ferociously years back. Today a grieving remorse is eating up at them even over Saddam's rule! Hence, some believe that Al-Assad and his crew outwardly seem powerful; but looking back at the regimes of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Gaddafi, Ben Ali, and Saleh make us realize that they are just hollow drums that can hardly withstand few media reports and people taking to the streets.
The destruction that the Syrians witnessed was the design that the hidden hands of the colonial powers had wrought. The Al-Assad, father, and son, along with their entourage are nothing but criminals gangs who take orders from an external power that be and have been carrying out what they originally have been affixed and planted for. Today, Al-Assad, the boy hardly has anything to bet on except time. He is merely waiting for the moment when the colonial West would seek its services anew. This boy is an extension of his father’s policy in applying the strategic doctrine that the German Bennett Schiller described in her book “The Wisdom of the Syrian Waiting Game”: “The Al-Assad regime has survived and has weathered hardships over the past five decades by implementing the waiting plan!”
Accordingly, let us understand that the countries that were affected by the Arab Spring, including Syria, did not disintegrate due to the outbreak of violence or any kind of civil wars on their lands, with the Arab Spring revolutions in the background!? Practically, they had disintegrated decades before, due to the policies of curbing the development and wasting the immensely rich potentials of these communities. A situation that in turn left their citizens impoverished for generations to come. This act of high treason has rendered those countries to live under such low standards beneath what a society should sustain to keep up its vital strength and growth. For that reason, millions of these countries’ citizens threw themselves into the seas, bearing the horrors of crossing to the other bank of the Mediterranean, and considering their doing so, altogether with the horror of facing death by drowning with their family, less painful than living under the rule of the bandits. It remains to further emphasize that this tragic reality and the criminal practices these regimes are implementing are acts with malice aforethought. It is a systematic policy that devilish-smart minds have programmed for criminals to carry out.
Perhaps the most forceful pressure the two bandits’ regime, the Al-Assad father and son, put on the group of the historical Syrian businessmen was their attempt to ideologically dogmatize this group. It was as if the members of this class were elements in an ideological party and they must abide by the rules of their organization, in refusing to deal with the “capitalist West”, and the “Arab reactionary” regimes, while insisting on subordinating the business leaders to their foreign policy. Their policy in this context was characterized by its fluctuation, cut off for some time, and re-connection again for some. This was during the time of the traitors Hafez and Bashar, who prevented the business class from communicating with their counterparts in those countries and besiege their commercial, industrial, and artisanship relations, whenever they may boycott a country’s administration for political reasons; an act which backfired and exposed them and the country’s economy to heavy losses!
“Before the revolution, the Al-Assad regime government estimated that 18 million Syrians had been living abroad.” The key reason behind their emigration in the past fifty years was the humiliating sectarian behavior practiced by a grudge-hearted sectarian group that managed to control the country's resources through its use of the maximum limits of violence, neglect, and corruption, leaving the country under uncertainty for its future. Now let’s add to that number about 7-8 million refugees, the aftereffects of the current Syrian large scale diaspora, for which international political circles have estimated that the Al-Assad regime is responsible for 95% of it, while the other criminals, QSD Daesh and Al-Nusra, are responsible for the other 5%. This diaspora, just as it has drained the country out of its doctors, engineers, academics, experts, intellectuals, writers, artists, and the oppositions members, it equally has deprived the country of sizable numbers of the traditional businessmen, commercial, industrial, and craftsmanship class, most of whom hail from and are among the best sons of the country’s noble classes and noble families*. These disruptive policies left the country in a deepening economic crisis that drained the savings of the Syrians. A reality worsened by the recent rapid displacement and thus further drained the country of its human energies to depend on running the country for dozens of years to come; leaving the running of the country’s affairs by 100%, sectarian figures of one affiliation, the Alawite sect, in a crude and brazen manner! The dying Syrian economy, moreover, due to the long period of mismanagement and the war, has suffered a great loss in depreciation of the Syrian pound during the past 60 years against the dollar. It fell from 3 SP to about 50 SP to 1 dollar during the time of Al-Assad the father, while the at time of the Al-Assad the boy it fell about 100 times from 50 to 5000! This decline will continue for many years to come.
The Syrian pound will eventually lose its value completely. An instance that will prompt Al-Assad and his ruling mafias to put the business class, both the traditional and the new alike, under tight besiege. This is in order to enact a blackmailing process, suck out their wealth, and ultimately be terminated after making them the only ones to pay for the bills of running the country. Standing witness to the above is what has happened with Dhul-Himma Shalish and Rami Makhlouf, both of whom are close entourage of Al-Assad. The former is an aunt's son and the latter is a cousin's son. As I am writing this article, dozens of businessmen loyal to the regime are being targeted with extortion. At the same time, the bandit Al-Assad is putting the middle business class under besiege by means of letting the customers supply control authorities, the taxation, the customs, the municipal, and governorate control establishments run wild. All of which for half a century are no longer performing their normal regulatory and supervisory role; but have turned into burglary administrations run by the sectarian security services gangs to blackmail and bankrupt this class and push them to emigrate**. As for the Syrians living abroad, the destruction of their cities and villages, in addition to the costs of seeking asylum, have drained their savings. Today, Syrians inside or outside the country are afflicted and starting from scratch. The big number of forcibly displaced people such as this frustrates the possibility to depend on providing remittances to the people inside of Syria; as the expatriate class used to do before and during the revolution, especially after they have lost hope of a near return!
One of the important factors that will further make the Syrian economy fragile and unreliable is its transformation into a war economy based on corruption, under the control of a group of newly hatched "businessmen". The country economy has turn into incomes coming from illegal activities such as the planting, processing, and trading in illegal drugs, weapons, stolen crude oil, prostitution, and others. The clique being involved in these acts will most likely be given full license to use its power in hoarding huge fortunes from corrupt deals, most of which will be transferred abroad; of which the country’s infrastructure will hardly benefit from such proceeds to support local economies. Accordingly, for many years to come, there will be no injection of investments in the infrastructure, and therefore there will be no purchasing power for the citizens to spend on and which the local economy can thrive from. As for the rebuilding narrative, it is just a lie that Al-Assad uses as a soothing drug for the population to slumber. He is selling castles in the air. A promotion give support by his international operators. Hence, confidence in the Syrian economy under Bashar Al-Assad’s administration has become a myth. Even if he may stay in power for a quarter of a century and becomes well behaved. But what about a regime the people who are in charge with did not only devour the country’s national resources, but furthermore the members of their families are in the habit of cutting off roads, rob citizens off their cars early from the first day they came to power until today. Yet, they brag about their doing so publicly in front of their president that they are Shabbiha ***?! Nurtured and bred as savages, killers, and thieves, this is how they came into being. And after half a century of their wielding power, their morals show no development. Civilized behavior seems to have been their arch-foe; as they have not progressed an inch! Just as they came into being, they are still savages, thieves, and killers!
We know that they feel relaxed when we universally tell them about their crimes. We know that when we tell the whole world about their evils and disgrace, we are injecting life into the pillars of their regime to survive longer. This is because our so describing them render their operators intoxicated with joy. A joy just as equal and at par with the size of the regime’s corruption, as well as the spreading of its corruption, criminality, and insolence, all of which the operators heartedly wish for our country to suffer the maximum. (!?). This is in view of the fact that “the United States of America, France, and Britain did not abide by their principles. They provided aid and reassurance to the Arab tyrannical rulers. They have betrayed their principles and made things easy for the dictatorships to survive.
Perhaps it is worth noting that the economic collapse in Syria has made it difficult for many citizens who have become destitute, and whose children are out of school, (more than 60% of the Syrian students are out of their schools since 2012), to ignore the privileges offered by Iran in an attempt to convert the Syrian people into the Shi’a sect and follow the mullahs Iranian doctrine. Those people, with their simple man of the street knowledge, cannot understand the negative political, economic and social effects on the future of the country as a result of that process. As for its impact on the Syrian economy, it will turn the country into an affiliate Iranian dependent economy. Given that under Bashar Al-Assad's rule, "Damascus has become one of the provinces of the theocratic state of Iran" ***** since 2002 until today, expanding towards eastern Syria, in addition to dozens of other drawbacks and negative aspects. We will leave this for specialists in sociology to explore!
It not far from true to admittedly say that a significant number of the Syrian business leaders did not openly join the revolution for fear of the security services atrocities. However, they have lost and are still losing a lot. They have lost hope that the current economic situation may compensate for their loss. This have triggered them to break their silence and point harsh criticism to the poor economy the country is suffering from, which is now in a state of clinical death. They certainly do not have a wish for and never like to dance to the tune of a state founded on repression, smuggling, corruption, illegal drugs, and prostitution, much as they would never feel honored to be part of its economy. The new corrupted "businessmen" have entered into a loser ruling-out inter-qualifying stage. In the short term, they will become unable to prevent the fall of Bashar Al-Assad and his regime. As for the international sanctions against the ruling Al-Assad mafia, it will further have its toll for the Syrians in as far as their cost of living is concerned. The International isolation will make Al-Assad live in a favorable quarantine, in which tyrants and despots the likes of him are fond of. It will remain as such until the time comes when the international power that be finds a dirty task for it to carry out, something which its regime has been doing for half a century back; subsequently they would breathe life into its veins and drum up diplomatic support for it to survive. A case in which nothing would positively reflect on the economy. Otherwise, they would terminate the regime and throw it in disgrace, either in the halls of the international law courts or in the grave; more likely the latter termination; because it is a godfather regime.
Accordingly, under any conceivable scenario, the Syrian economy will never recover under Bashar Al-Assad's rule. I dare any global strategic research center or any local or international
expertise in the economy to prove the opposite! Let’s all see things unfold. A guide in the desert may never spin a yarn to his people!
* One may ask why, in our discussion of the economy, we stress on the high renowned traditional families’ significance. Well, apart from these families' distinct status in the community and let alone their high cultural attitudes they spread in the society, among other valuable things that they possess, in terms of economy, these families have extensive worldwide contacts with other renowned traditional families. A privilege enabling them to establish inter-communication refreshing factors of the national income to the benefit of the national economy. These families are a wealth that has been accumulated throughout history. Syria has been the most important station along the Silk Road. It should not have been laid to waste; given the fact that rebuilding those relations is very difficult and costly.
*** A term given by the Syrians to describe the Alawites criminals who adopted kidnapping and forced robbery as a way to earn their living. When Bashar Al-Assad entered the opera house in Damascus, the audience, including his government officials, stood up and chanted, "We are Shabbiha forever, for the sake of your eyes, Al-Assad." In his turn, prompted by his well-known foolishness, waved his hands with joy greeting them. By so doing, he recognized his mob temperament just as they intrinsically are!
**** The Syrian Rebellion, Fouad Ajami, p. 248.
***** The Syrian Rebellion, Fouad Ajami, p. 205.