Assad Cousin Defiant, Won’t Give Up Largest Syrian Telecom Firm
Rami Makhlouf says he will flout a deadline Syrian authorities gave him to step down as head of the country’s top mobile firm, ignoring threats that they will revoke its operating license if he fails to comply. In a video posted to social media on Sunday, Makhlouf, a maternal cousin of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, said that bringing down Syriatel would be “catastrophic” for the country’s economy. Owing to this and two previous videos posted on social media, the tycoon has been in open warfare with Assad, seen by analysts as being in desperate need of cash to finance the rebuilding of a country that has to a great degree been destroyed by more than nine years of civil war. Makhlouf claims that Syriatel and other assets in his vast real estate, construction and oil empire have already been financing a large percentage of the government war effort, and does not understand why he is being singled out. For the past several months, his son, Mohammad, has brought heavy criticism on the family for posting photos of himself posing with airplanes and luxury cars as millions in the country remain uprooted due to years of battles.