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Chances are Rami #Makhlouf's life isn't in danger whatever may happen next . He's blood, after all.
The fall of the #Jaber Brothers, whom #Damascus perceived their actions as 'treason' (punishable by death), may be the most recent example.
The Jaber Brothers, once #Syria’s biggest tycoons and most powerful militia leaders, fell precipitously once they crossed red lines.
Tied to the #Assad family through marriage likely saved their lives and their ultimate downfall was limited to public disgrace & financial ruin.
The #Makhlouf saga is reminder that no matter how big a whale you are in #Syria, the megalodon is the apex predator.
Pieced together through insiders, at various intervals, this is the tale of the the fall of the Jaber Brothers, the ‘frog(s) that wished to be as big as the ox’.
Lots has been written and said about Ayman, Mohammad Jaber the Lattakia businessmen close to Maher Al-#Assad and the 4th Division. Ibrahim, the third brother, was always less visible and people treated like the family’s Godfather, described as their 'political front'.
In essence, there’s no better political, security and military protection one can get in #Syria than that of the 4th Division and its political clout. It also helps immensely when Ayman, already on excellent terms with Maher, has married into the immediate #Assad family
Following their successful military contracts (a story for another day), The brothers established the “Desert Hawks” militia in 2013 which eventually grew, combined, to around 6,000 fighters.
At the time, Nusra Front and ISIS had become a serious threat in the Homs Desert, Palmyra and oil and gas production facilities. In Aug 2013, the Syrian Parliament issued Decree 55 allowing the setup of private protection companies to help bolster the disarrayed government forces
Ayman Jaber & his brothers, who also wanted to protect their businesess, saw a money-making opportunity. Why still pay their militias out of their own pockets when the government could compensate them for it? And so, the Desert Hawks was incorporated as a ‘protection company’.
With the 4th Div links behind them, they were immediately awarded protection contracts. Basically, #Damascus paid the Jabers to recruit former soldiers and existing National Defence Force fighters, already on measly government wages. The Jabers military prestige was rising.
Mohammed Jaber contracted Russian mercs as the core of the Desert Hawks w/ wages reaching up $1500 a month. Soon after, the recruitment switched to Syrians at a discounted rate of $200 to $300 a month, which at the time, was a considerable amount of money. #Iraqi-s too.
The Desert Hawks became one of the best units, trained by Syrian and former Iraqi Army officers as well as advisors of Iraqi militias. By the time #Russia militarily intervened in fall 2015, they had become a battle-experienced outfit.
Mohammad Jaber put his entire focus on fostering the growth of the Desert Hawks, while Ayman started cosying up to the Russians.
This eventually led, in early 2016, to the creation of Maghawir Al-Bahr (Marine Commandos), initially, a Russian-trained and equipped fighting force.
The prestige of the Jabers was increasing.
With the Commandos, Ayman created a unit nominally attached to the #SAA, but wholly independent from its chain of command through bribing the SAA officers attached to it and buying their personal loyalties.
The Marine Commandos eventually became one of only 3 paramilitary forces able to carry out individual “reconciliation and settlement” agreements without going back to the Syrian security agencies.
The Jaber Brothers started to act like Lords of the Manor along the coast.
The ego and bravado of the brothers seeped into to their loyal top lieutenants. Amongst themselves, they started boasting about their power, influence and ability to rule the coastal areas.
As ever, #Syria security services had been watching and listening.
After the disastrous June 2016 Raqqa battle, Russia downgraded their support.
But money was flowing and business booming from both legal and illegal businesses. Their largesse and investment in people paid off and they accrued an immense loyalty among their men.
Mohammad’s ego kept on growing. Previously known as The Hawk, he was now being referred to as the “The #1 Mujahid” and the “Believer Mujahid”. He was building a personality cult around him, dabbling with Shi’a Jihadi ideologies to appeal to Iraqi recruits and ideological fighters
His most experienced fighters were mostly despatched to the border areas and the desert to defend oil convoy and installations, while the fiercer, more ideological ones, and many #Iraqi-s among them, where brought to the coast to fight against rebels and Jihadis.
The brothers even began buying their own weapons, equipment and ammunition. Ayman Jaber bought several T-72B series tanks for his Marine Commandos, as well as other distinctive war horses.
Because the Marines were still nominally part of the #SAA, Ayman paid for the tanks himself while the SAA acquired them through its armament deals with Russia. Although SAA property, they were transferred directly to his outfit.
The T-72s, T-90s and BTR-80s became the ultimate military designer bling, pouring prestige over the Desert Hawks and the Syrian Marines.
But vanity proved the downfall of the Jaber Brothers. They began to expand their influence from their strongholds of #Latakia, #Homs & #Jableh, to the rest of the coast. They went on several major successful recruitment drives, carrying out a rapid expansion.
The expansion meant that new recruits, young and inexperienced, were not as loyal nor as invested in the brothers’ grandiose self-image. They weren’t even like their more experienced and jaded counterparts who kept their mouths shut because the money and perks were too good.
The welds of the once tightly sealed cruiser began to leak as old members fraternised with new ones and conversations exchanged about how the Jabers were poised to become “the new kings of the coast”.
Close aides to Mohammed Jaber boasted about the Desert Hawks ability to take over Lattakia “in less than one hour”. The Mujahid, himself, became even less and less discreet about his intents in public. He even boasted about it to Der Spiegel.
At the same time, some of the Jabers’ inner circle told their top lieutenants that Ibrahim, the older brother, is Russia’s next choice for president. The reports of #Syria Military Intelligence and National Security were stacking up.
In Feb 2017, the fate of the brothers was sealed much sooner than expected. The convoy of Ibrahim tried to run off 2 unmarked vehicles on the Qordaha Motorway. The vehicles ignored the flashing lights, with the escort blocking the motorcade way, not allowing them to take over
he Syrian president’s in the lead vehicle. The facts here are fluid, but all versions agreed that the the full presidential protection detail came racing through against traffic by which time the penny had dropped for the chasing motorcade, now stopped in its tracks.
Security surrounded them, took their weapons, and ordered everyone out and on the ground. Ibrahim was ordered to report to the presidential palace in #Damascus, the next week.
After a particularly demeaning reception and a few hours wait, Ibrahim was not allowed to meet the president, kicked out of the palace and put under house arrest.
Ibrahim and Mohammad were to be stripped of all their power trappings.
The Desert Hawks were to be soon disbanded. Ibrahim was put under house arrest. Mohammad was given the choice of voluntary exile and is believed to have gone to Russia, through he was recently reported to be presently in Iraq running oil-related business.
Ayman was spared the cull by virtue of his marriage to the #Assad family and his friendship with Maher. He was allowed to keep his vehicles, bodyguards, the Commandos, Marines (now under SAA and the 5th Legion). Their recruitment offices were kept in operation.
However, the Syrian intelligence, now even more suspicious, infiltrated every aspect of Ayman’s life. In Spring 2018, they intercepted ‘unauthorised contacts with foreign entities’. Further electronic surveillance apparently showed ‘suspect intentions’ towards Damascus.
The order came in early May 2018 to put him under house arrest and put an end to whatever remained of the Jabers clout. #Damascus had completely cut ties with him. Ayman tried to meet Maher to plead his case but he was summarily dismissed . Just as Rami is being ignored now
The Commandos were disbanded, his security detail arrested, tanks and APCs parked around his residence seized, his offices raided, electronic equipment seized, and his fortune confiscated.
By September 2018, only the memory of Ayman Jaber remained.
Again, Ayman’s marriage saved his life but challenging Damascus rendered him destitute. The final nail in the coffin came in December 2019, when an official decree ordered the seizure of all his possessions. The same decree been issued against #Makhlouf a couple of days earlier.
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