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[singlepic id=106 w=320 h=240 float=left] A new list of the most important 100 Syrian businessmen has been published by the Syrian al-Iqtisadi magazine (Economist Magazine) highlighting their names and geography (The complete list was not published on the Internet but is available if you talk to Hamoud at his cell no. + 963-93-324-4566 in Damascus).

What the list does not tell you, from the reports I read, is how each and any became the success they are, which I believe is a key component to tracing not only the real value but also the audit trail of their success. Take for example the Forbes 400, which, in a short biography, can pin down the value, the origin, and the path to success each billionaire trail blazed his way into the list.

How It Works in the Middle East

Such has never been the case amongst successful businessmen in the Middle East. We are told that they have billions but very few can be audited as to how their first dollar produced the second one. Take for example the Saudi billionaire Waleed bin Talal or Al-Waleed, as some call him, his investment in Citicorp in 1991 in the amount of $550 rocketed his career. But between 1979, when he graduated from Menlo College, until 1991, no one knows how he acquired the $550 million to invest in Citicorp in the first place. It”™s a total mystery.

Why the mystery in the seed capital or the early path to success? Because most successful Arab businessmen have become the success they are today using two different methods.

The first method, I call “Preferential Treatment”, relies on an idea, also used in the west, similar to sole sourcing. But while the west relies on sole sourcing in extreme cases because a contractor or a company is indispensable to finishing the job, in the Middle East, it is mainly used to support a businessman the ruler has become fond of. Irrelevant are the qualifications or the indispensability of the businessman.

The second method, which was originally adapted in countries like Saudi Arabia as vast wealth became available with no means for the ruler to control that wealth as he developed complex budgets to support an ever growing infrastructure needs. His personal needs had to be met in amassing wealth to protect his rule and control his destiny. So the ruler used front businessmen who would be granted contracts on a sole source basis with outrageous pricing schemes and then the front men would turn around and hand over to the personal account of the ruler the majority of that contract value while keeping for himself the crumbs, which in most instances amounted to tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars. The front men qualifications were trust and loyalty.

However, having said that, there are many Arab businessmen who have traveled the hard road to success with sweat and tears. But the accumulation of their wealth always comes at the price of competing in a society where Preferential Treatment is a burdensome factor on their businesses.

The 100 Most Important Syrian Businessmen

With the al-Iqtisadia list of the most prominent Syrian businessmen (87 live in Syria and 13 are expatriates with investments in Syria), there is a new opportunity for the US to pressure the Assad regime to comply with peeling away from Iran, in support of Lebanon”™s independence (Which also means Assad must stop supporting Hezbollah and Hamas), and open Syria for inspection by the IAEA.

One item of great importance to those who follow Syrian politics is the fact that Rami Makhlouf, Assad”™s cousin and front man par excellence, was not listed in al-Iqtisadia. This could mean one of two things: 1) The list was developed as a form of disinformation to see what the US would embark upon or, 2) Rami Makhlouf has been under such pressure to curb his corrupt practices that the regime saw his name on the list as pouring gasoline over fire.

The fact that Rami Makhlouf is delisted could also be a tale in and by itself. No one really knows the reasons but my hunch is that the US Treasury Department, under the Office of Foreign Asset and Control (OFAC), may have played an important role in that regard when, on February 21, 2008, it designated Makhlouf as an individual “Benefitting from Syrian Corruption”. His businesses have suffered as a result when US and European companies collectively stopped doing business with him. His father Hafiz Makhlouf, who is Assad”™s maternal uncle, was also mentioned by OFAC on November 7, 2007 as “Furthering Syrian Regime”™s Efforts to Undermine Lebanese Democracy”.

Further, OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which was started to implement the Marshal Plan after WWII, has evolved to be the driving force behind homogenizing good practices amongst countries for the purpose of achieving sustainable economic growth on a global basis. If banks want to know the origins of the sources of your money, it is because OECD plays an important role in this activity by ensuring transparency for economic parity.

There is no reason why both OFAC and OECD cannot play a determined and effective role in harnessing the type of pressure points needed to convey to Assad the seriousness of his actions. Whether these Syrian businessmen are treated preferentially or have become the front men for Assad (i.e. Rami Makhlouf and SyriaTel), pressure upon their businesses will yield results that will conclusively benefit Syrian and US interests.

It is further advisable that SyriaTel be targeted for its international roaming agreements, which are paramount to conducting business in international countries. Almost all Syrians who seek  freedom and human rights to prevail inside Syria have been banned from travel by Ali Mamlouk, the new face of horror who is behind the policy of banning up to 100,000 Syrians from traveling abroad and who is also behind the policy of pressuring family members for the activities of unreachable dissidents living abroad.

You want Assad to comply with the most reasonable demands of halting his terror tactics, take away SLOWLY the support he garners from the Syrian business community. This list is the best intelligence Assad could offer on a silver platter.


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