Individual Sanctions on Syria’s Business Elite: Assessing the Economic Logic of Dissociation

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Ferdinand Arslanian


This paper aims at elaborating on the argument put forth by Wallensteen & Grusell (2012) that individual sanctions on business figures are more likely to follow a clear profit/loss economic logic in comparison with military and political figures - and hence are more likely to be effective in changing their position from the target regime - and testing it for the case of US/EU sanctions against Syria. Drawing from conceptualisations of state-business relations in Syria (Haddad 2008, 2012; Abboud 2013, 2017), it will be hypothesised that dissociation from the regime is more likely to occur among the less regime dependent with extensive international linkages and vice versa.

Using open sources to trace the change in the political and economic behaviour of Syrian business individuals blacklisted between 2011-2012, the paper finds ample evidence for the hypothsised logic. Those who met both conditions were most likely to dissociate from the regime (Nabeel Kuzbari, Imad Ghreiwati, Issam Anbouba) while those acting as proxies for regime figures in inward-looking businesses were the least likely to do so (Khaled Qaddour, Raef Qawatly). In the case of individuals with extensive international linkages but highly regime dependent, more complex forms of adaptation have been pursued including moving to Lebanon and relying on intermediaries for arranging international transactions necessary for maintaining their business operations in Syria (Tareef Akhras, Nizar As’ad) or remaining inside Syria and shifting business operations away from Western countries towards International Organisations, Russian and Chinese-related activities and new opportunities created by the conflict (Sameer Hassan, Mhd. Hamsho). 

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