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UN: Bad deeds pay good in Syria

The UN has come under fire for signing contracts with Syrian regime-linked companies [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 August, 2016

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Funds set up by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's wife, and cousin Rami Makhlouf, are receiving tens of millions of dollars in aid from the UN, a British newspaper claimed.
The United Nations might not have been able to halt President Bashar al-Assad's destruction of Syria, but even when it tries to do good it also does harm.

While Syria's economy is in tatters - receiving much needed military and economic assistance from Russia and Iran - Damascus has another lifeline with the UN.

The Guardian reported that the UN has paid 258 Syrian firms between $58 million to $30,000, many with close links to Assad.

It also shows that tens of millions of dollars have been funnelled into accounts, businesses and charities owned by figures within the Syrian regime.

Regime handouts

One of the most notorious is the president's wife Asma al-Assad - who is on EU and US sanctions list - and whose Syria Trust fund received a total of $8.5 million from the UN.
The UN have paid between $58 million to $30,000 to 258 Syrian firms, many with close links to Assad.

Notorious businessman Rami Makhlouf's al-Bustan Association also just under $300,000 from UNICEF.

Known to be Syria's richest man, Makhlouf is allegedly a key financier of the regime and directly involved in Syria's war, setting up his own pro-Assad militias.

The regime itself accepted $13 million for farming and agricultural projects, despite there being huge concerns about corruption and graft in most government departments.

This is in additions to millions of dollars paid for hotel rooms, a third of which are owned by the regime while others by private businesses likely close to the regime. 

A state-owned fuel supplier also paid $4 million, despite Damascus allegedly being involved in gas and fuel deals with the Islamic State group.
One researcher who interviewed aid workers in Syria said UN officials showed signs of "clear-cut Stockholm syndrome".

The UN provided a fairly lacklustre defence. It claimed its officials do all it can to ensure the money goes to the places it should go.

But without proper safeguards in place or governmental transparency this is probably an impossible task.

"Of paramount importance is reaching as many vulnerable civilians as possible," a UN spokesman told the Guardian.

"Our choices in 
Syria are limited by a highly insecure context where finding companies and partners who operate in besieged and hard to reach areas is extremely challenging."

Stockholm syndrome

Journalists, academics, and Syrian activists have long suspected the UN's role in the country. 

One researcher who interviewed aid workers in Syria said UN officials showed "clear-cut" signs of "Stockholm Syndrome". 

Many Syrians have accused the UN of being unjustly lenient towards the regime, which is responsible for the vast majority of Syria's hundreds of thousands of war dead - most civilians.
The UN has done next to nothing to stop Assad starving residents in around 47 of the country's 50 besieged areas.

Daily Syrian and Russian air force bombardments of civilian areas - and what appears to be the deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools - have gone unpunished.

The UN recently acknowledged that the regime has carried out gas attacks on civilian areas, but has not pushed for arrest warrants for the perpetrators.

Meanwhile, the UN has assisted in air drops to regime areas in Deir az-Zour blockaded by IS. Yet the UN has done next to nothing to stop Assad starving residents in around 47 of the country's 50 besieged areas.

One of those areas - Daraya - was recently evacuated of all its residents in a deal between the rebels and regime after living conditions for civilians became too unbearable for opposition fighters to continue its resistance.

It sent out a message to the regime that not only do its illegal tactics of blockading civilian areas and bombing to surrender work, but they also pay dividends.

One researcher who interviewed aid workers in Syria said UN officials showed signs of "clear-cut Stockholm syndrome". 

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