Syrian businessmen signal revulsion with President Assad’s regime

The Guardian reports:

Syrian businessmen are reaching out to western diplomats, expressing revulsion for the Assad regime but also concern at the crippling effect of sanctions.

Diplomats say several businessmen from the merchant elite have approached western embassies to register their unease. “There are many businessmen coming to us to tell us how much they hate the regime,” said one senior western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Protesters continue to take to the streets in large numbers but have so far been unable to dislodge those in power, prompting them to look for any splits within the regime’s political, military and economic base. While the international community has targeted the economy with sanctions, protesters have circulated lists of companies to boycott. The US and EU have accompanied their calls for President Basher al-Assad to resign with economic sanctions.

“Business leaders are definitely moving because they are realising the regime may not be around forever,” said Adib Shishakly, a Saudi-based businessman.

Almost six months of protests against Assad have all but wiped out the tourist industry, which accounts for 12% of GDP, while the International Institute of Finance forecasts that the economy will shrink by 3% this year.

Neighbouring countries, including Turkey, have until now called on Bashar al-Assad to reform rather than resign. But in a sign of rising tensions, Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gül, told Anatolia news agency on Sunday that Turkey has lost confidence. His comments came a day after Iran warned the regime to heed protesters’ demands and the Arab League said it would send its leader to Damascus.

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