U.S. Gets Tough on Syrian Regime, Property Blocking and Destroyer Deployment

Does the US have a Syria policy finally? Or the U.S. conduct, which is similar to crisis-management, continues with respect to Syria? (Read a previous opinion of mine: The U.S. Syria Democracy Program)

We are finally close to know.

Here are some very interesting materials on this question may reflect a serious change in the U.S. Syria policy:

The White House
Statement by the Press Secretary
February 13, 2008

Today the President signed an Executive Order that takes additional steps with respect to the Syrian regime's continued engagement in certain conduct that formed the basis of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13338 of May 11, 2004.

This order expands sanctions to block the property of senior Syrian Government officials and their associates who are determined to be responsible for, to have engaged in, or to have benefited from public corruption. The order also revises a provision in Executive Order 13338 to block the property of persons determined to be responsible for actions or decisions of the Syrian regime that undermine efforts to stabilize Iraq, or allow Syrian territory to be used for this purpose.

In addition to these policies targeted by this Executive Order, the Syrian regime continues to pursue other activities that deny the Syrian people the political freedoms and economic prosperity they deserve, and that undercut the peace and stability of the region. Syria continues to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy, imprison democracy activists, curtail human rights, and sponsor and harbor terrorists. The United States will continue to stand with the people of Syria and the region as they seek to exercise their rights peacefully and to build a brighter future.


U.S. Department of the Treasury
February 21, 2008

Rami Makhluf Designated for Benefiting from Syrian Corruption

Washington, DC − The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Rami Makhluf, a powerful Syrian businessman and regime insider whom improperly benefits from and aids the public corruption of Syrian regime officials. This action was taken today pursuant to Executive Order 13460, which targets individuals and entities determined to be responsible for or who have benefited from the public corruption of senior officials of the Syrian regime.

"Rami Makhluf has used intimidation and his close ties to the Asad regime to obtain improper business advantages at the expense of ordinary Syrians," said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. "The Asad regime's cronyism and corruption has a corrosive effect, disadvantaging innocent Syrian businessmen and entrenching a regime that pursues oppressive and destabilizing policies, including beyond Syria's borders, in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories."

Syria is well known for its corrupt business environment, which denies the Syrian people economic prosperity and other freedoms. The considerable role the Asad family, their inner circle, and the Syrian security services exert over the economy, coupled with the absence of a free judicial system and the lack of transparency, concentrates wealth in the hands of certain classes and individuals. In turn, these classes and individuals depend upon this corrupt system for their success and fortune. Syrians without these connections are unable to improve their economic standing, and suffer as a result of policies implemented by an unaccountable regime.

President George W. Bush issued E.O. 13460 on February 13, 2008 to take additional measures to address the threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States posed by certain conduct of the Government of Syria.

This new authority builds on E.O. 13338, which was issued by President Bush in May 2004, by targeting activities that entrench and enrich the Syrian regime and its cohorts thereby enabling the regime to continue to engage in threatening behavior, including actions that undermine efforts to stabilize Iraq. Corruption by the regime also reinforces efforts that deny the people of Syria political freedoms and economic prosperity, undercut peace and stability in the region, fund terrorism and violence, and undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon.

Pursuant to E.O. 13460, any assets that Makhluf holds under U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in business or transactions with Makhluf.

Identifying Information

Rami Makhluf
MAKHLOUF, Rami Bin Mohammed
MAKHLOUF, Rami Mohammad
DOB: July 10, 1969
POB: Syria
Passport Number: Syrian, 98044

Rami Makhluf is a powerful Syrian businessman who amassed his commercial empire by exploiting his relationships with Syrian regime members. Makhluf has manipulated the Syrian judicial system and used Syrian intelligence officials to intimidate his business rivals. He employed these techniques when trying to acquire exclusive licenses to represent foreign companies in Syria and to obtain contract awards.

Makhluf is the maternal cousin of President Bashar al-Asad and through this relationship, Makhluf has become a focal point of Syria's telecommunications, commercial, oil, gas and banking sectors. Despite President Asad's highly publicized anti-corruption campaigns, Makhluf remains one of the primary centers of corruption in Syria.

Makhluf's influence with certain Syrian government officials has led to his being able to control the issuance of certain types of profitable commodities contracts. His close business associations with some Syrian cabinet ministers have enabled him to gain access to lucrative oil exploration and power plant projects. Makhluf's preferential access to Syrian economic sectors has led to complaints about him from members of the Syrian business community.

Makhluf is the brother of Syrian General Intelligence Directorate official Hafiz Makhluf, who was previously designated under E.O. 13441.


Washington Ready for War with Syria to Defend Lebanon?

08 Mar 08

A recent electronic mail leaked by Egypt unveils U.S. readiness to launch wide-scale military offensive against Syria if the Assad regime sticks to its policy towards Lebanon, Germany's DPA news agency reported.

DPA on Friday quoted reliable sources as saying "the e-mail leaked a few days ago by Egypt to Syria reveals that the U.S. is ready to launch a wide-scale military offensive against Syria if (Damascus) holds onto its current position towards the Lebanese crisis."

"This is the main reason behind (the deployment of) the (USS Cole) destroyer off the Lebanese and Syrian coasts," the sources added.

A U.S. Navy official said earlier this week that the Cole had been relieved by the guided missile destroyer USS Ors and the guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last week that the deployment should not be viewed as threatening or in response to events in any single country in the volatile region.

An Nahar daily, however, quoted on Saturday diplomatic sources as saying that "the American message delivered to Damascus means Syrian and Iranian domination on Lebanon is prohibited."

An Nahar also said that newspapers in the Gulf have reported that Russian and Iranian naval forces in the Mediterranean sea have been put on alert.

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