The US-imposed sanctions on Syria under the so-called “Caesar Act”, which entered into force on 17 June 2020, entail the risk of partitioning Syria and changing its strategic position. This would constitute an introduction to a geographical reformulation of the country after the war had contributed to tearing its national fabric and destroying its capabilities of political recovery and overcoming the destructive consequences of the war.
Despite the impact of subjective factors in manifesting and fuelling the conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his billionaire cousin Rami Makhlouf, this conflict has constituted a test of numerous issues and concepts in circulation both at the core of the Syrian crisis and on its surface, such as Russia’s capability to choose alternatives to Assad or the capability of any other Alawite side to replace Assad as far as the Alawite sect is concerned.
The recent Russian steps in the Syrian file have raised questions about their significance and objective, especially that they coincide with local, regional and international developments in the Syrian file. On 25 May 2020, the Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed the Russian ambassador to Syria Alexander Yefimov as a special presidential representative for developing Russian relations with Syria. On 28 May 2020, Putin also signed a decree in which he delegated the ministries of defence and foreign affairs to start negotiations with the Syrian government with a view to handing over additional facilities to the Russian military and expanding their maritime control in Syria, provided that the new arrangements would be complementary to the agreement signed in August 2015 allowing for a military presence in Syria. This paper sheds light on those steps and explores their dimensions and impact in the Syrian context.
The current dispute between the president of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s top businessman Rami Makhlouf constitutes a new variable in the policy of the Syrian regime and its way of dealing with the problems that erupt within the narrow circle of decision making. While Rami Makhlouf is not a political figure and has no specific position within the Syrian power hierarchy, it is no secret that in addition to being a relative of Assad, he represents a strong economic centre that owes its status to the significant role played by the regime policy. This makes him organically linked to the Syrian ruling system. This is evidenced by the fact that Rami Makhlouf benefitted a lot from the economic transformation that occurred in Syria under Assad the son’s presidency, that is the shift from planned to market economy which required the issuance of hundreds of presidential decrees to rehabilitate the legal and political structure accordingly. This paper sheds light on the background of the dispute between the two men and Russia’s position thereon in its capacity as the most influential player in Syrian policies.
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