On December 16, 2023, Maher al-Assad was seen in a low-quality video in Homs, flanked by military personnel. As the Syrian regime’s second-in-command and a key ally of Iran, his appearance, after being absent for a year, seemed to refute rumors of his death in an Israeli raid. His return coincided with the Syrian People’s Assembly ratifying a law allowing the regime to manage and invest in seized assets. This law, retroactively effective, applies to all previously confiscated movable and immovable property. This legislation is particularly harsh for those tried in the Terrorism Court, which is notorious for its extreme measures and has been used to seize assets of regime critics and others.
This controversial law effectively permits the indiscriminate seizure of Syrian citizens’ assets, further reinforcing the regime’s oppressive nature. The timing of the law’s enactment parallels efforts to rebuild areas that rebelled against the regime since 2011, much like the rebuilding efforts in Gaza, hinting at a shared strategy between Syria and Israel in handling seized territories and properties.
Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad’s low profile in Syrian affairs suggests his retreat to a background role, while Prime Minister Hussein Arnous has become more prominent. Arnous recently represented Syria at a climate summit in Dubai and visited Tehran, indicating his vital role in implementing Iran’s investment strategies in Syria. His newfound powers under the new law add to concerns over Iran’s increasing control over Syria.
The regime’s actions, including the new law, are seen as a form of state-sanctioned theft, with parallels drawn to Israel’s plans to flood Gaza’s tunnels. Both actions represent a form of retribution and are condemned as immoral by international standards.
Despite Israel’s ongoing strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets, Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues its oppressive tactics, including recent bombings in Idlib and Sarmin, which caused civilian casualties. These actions further isolate the regime regionally and internationally, raising questions about Bashar al-Assad’s future strategies to address his diminishing influence.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.