Last Updated: Wed Apr 27, 2011 09:51 am (KSA) 06:51 am (GMT)

Influential brother of Syria’s Assad to be targeted by US sanctions

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) and his brother Maher. (File photo)
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) and his brother Maher. (File photo)

The brother of President Bashar al-Assad will probably top the list of Syrian officials to be hit by economic sanctions from the United States, according to Al Arabiya sources.

The United States said it was considering imposing sanctions against officials of the Syrian regime due to their roles in crushing the revolt against Mr. Assad’s autocratic rule that began on March 18 across Syria.

President Assad’s brother, Maher, regarded as the second most powerful man in Syria, commands the ultra-loyal Fourth Division—the Syrian Army’s equivalent of Special Forces.

Syria has been ruled by the Assad family since Mr. Bashar’s father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, took power in a 1970 coup. The younger Mr. Assad, 46, kept intact the autocratic political system he inherited in 2000 upon his father’s death. Since then, the Assad family has expanded its control over the struggling economy of the 23-million-population country.

Washington’s possible sanctions would include freezing accounts and assets of Syrian officials in US banks and financial associations, US sources told Al Arabiya.

The US Treasury Department is expected to announce a list with the Syrian officials to be targeted by the sanctions before Friday, Al Arabiya sources said.

The administration of former US President George W. Bush had imposed similar sanctions against Syrian officials, including intelligence officials Mohammed Naseef, Rostom Ghazalah and Jamea Jamea. The three officials were in charge of the Syria’s spy agencies in Lebanon before the 2005 withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Most countries allying with the US usually follow on the path of Washington by avoiding any economic dealings with the officials targeted by the US sanctions.

(Hisham Melhem is the chief of Al Arabiya bureau in Washington, he can be reached via email at: Hisham.melhem@mbc.net; the article was translated by Abeer Tayel, also of Al Arabiya, who can be reached at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net)

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