The Syrian coast has seen a younger generation of the Assad clan rise to power. Controlling smuggling routes and extortion rackets, Bashar’s cousins grew rich and powerful, at times challenging the regime itself.
Mohammad Makhlouf has reached a level of influence that no other official had reached in the era of Hafez al-Assad, because he could communicate with Hafez at any time and on any occasion. He also used to bribe state officials with exorbitant gifts.
These are the facts of an incident narrated to me by a former employee of one of the companies owned by Rami Makhlouf; the maternal cousin of President Bashar al-Assad. The former employee refused to reveal his identity for personal reasons.