Monday, December 14, 2009

The grapevine

Talking to Israelis is always an interesting experience. Especially when they are involved in the fields of finance and do business with Arab clients in several Arab states. Today I had a nice insight into some of the workings of Rif'at al Asad's 'business' network, of course mostly funded by drug money and with a considerable share in the Astra satellite network. This particular Israeli I was talking to had met Rifaat's son in Gibraltar, where they both had 'shared' business interests. I am not sure if this is the same son I remember seeing in Syria. This son had come with his father for a brief period before the death of Hafez Assad, just before he was unceremoniously packed off into exile again. He had bought with him two of those mini-motorcycles that are still quite popular and he used to race with the local general's thug son throughout the hara at night. Apparently they fell out, shortly after that we heard nothing from him again as he had gone abroad again. Ref'aat's building is now a bank in Shaalan, near the Jahez park on Abu Roumaneh. Back in the day, that corner was dominated by the massive wall surrounding his building, which was always empty and dark. There is also a cafe opposite where the former Indonesian embassy used to be. The Israeli told me he was optimistic that Bashar al Assad could bring about a "change of policy" for the better in Syria. That if we were clever like the Egyptians we can now be making a lot of money. It always amazes me the things I learn when people feel comfortable enough around me.

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