Mahmoud Zuabi

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Mahmoud Zuabi
محمود الزعبي
Prime Minister of Syria
In office
1 November 1987 – 7 March 2000
President Hafez Assad
Preceded by Abdul Rauf al-Kasm
Succeeded by Muhammad Mustafa Mero
Member of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch
In office
7 January 1980 – 21 June 2000
Personal details
Born 1935 (1935)
Khirbet Ghazaleh, Syria
Died 21 May 2000 (aged 65)
Damascus, Syria
Resting place Khirbat Ghazalah
Political party Syrian Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party
Other political
affiliations
National Progressive Front
Religion Islam

Mahmoud Zuabi also, Zubi or al-Zoubi (Arabic: محمود الزعبي‎‎‎; 1935 – 21 May 2000) was Prime Minister of Syria from 1 November 1987 to 7 March 2000.

Early life[edit]

Zuabi was born into a Sunni family in 1935 in Khirbet Ghazaleh, a village 75 miles south of Damascus in the Hauran region.[1][2]

Prime Minister of Syria[edit]

Zuabi was a member of the Ba'ath Party.[3][4] Under the rule of then President Hafez Assad, Zuabi was appointed Prime Minister in 1987.[5] He presided over a ramshackle purportedly socialist governmental and economic system. Military and government officials exercised immense power and continue to do so. Only oil revenues kept the economy going. Even foreign aid programmes struggled to implement under the weight of bureaucratic obduracy.

Ubiquitous regulations including price-control had the effect most observers say of stifling legitimate enterprise. Many officials are forced into corruption to supplement meager salaries. It is said that corruption extended all the way to the top Syria's government.

When President Hafez Assad was showing signs of poor health in the late 1990s, supporters of his son Bashar Assad started positioning him to succeed him as President. Hafez was also a major player in these maneuverings. Syria is a republic where there was no direct transfer of power envisaged in the constitution from father to son.

As Hafez Assad grew sick, it became clear both father and son had decided that Zuabi's days were numbered. Tackling corruption is a popular cause among most Syrians, who see the immense wealth created at their expense as a reason why the Syrian economy has struggled to grow. The dragging down of once swaggering officials, with punishments including jail and the confiscation and auction of their illegally obtained assets earned Bashar much kudos in the community.

On 7 March 2000, Zuabi was replaced as prime minister by Mohammed Mustafa Mero.[6]

Currency crisis[edit]

During 1985-2000, Zuabi's administration failed to arrest the 90 per cent fall in the worth of the Syrian Pound from 3 to 47 to the US Dollar.

Downfall and the Airbus deal controversy[edit]

On 10 May 2000, Hafez Assad expelled Zuabi from the Ba'ath Party and decided that Zuabi should be prosecuted over a scandal involving the French aircraft manufacturer Airbus.[1] Zuabi's assets were frozen by the Syrian government.[6] Zuabi and several senior ministers were officially accused of receiving illegal commissions of the order of US$124 million in relation to the purchase of six Airbus 320-200 passenger jets for Syrian Arab Airlines in 1996. The indictment alleged that the normal cost of the planes was US$250 million, but the Government paid $374 million and Airbus sent on US$124 million to the senior ministers. Three others involved in the transaction, including the former minister for economic affairs and the former minister for transport were sentenced to prison for ten years.

The French company Airbus denied paying off the Syrian officials. It is interesting to note the Syrian Government in September 2003 announced its intention of purchasing six more Airbus planes for the government airline. The official finding within Syrian courts that Airbus paid over a hundred million dollars in bribes to their officials is apparently not a factor in deciding whether to continue to do business with them, especially with Boeing aircraft and spare parts being difficult to attain due to unilateral US sanctions.

Personal life[edit]

Zuabi was married and had two sons and a daughter.[1] His sons were Miflih and Hammam Zuabi.[7]

Death and burial[edit]

In May 2000, while under house arrest, Zuabi committed suicide by gunshot rather than face trial.[8][9] The Syrian Arab News Agency's official explanation was that he committed suicide after learning that a Syrian police chief had arrived at his house in Dumer to serve a judicial notice requiring him to appear before an investigating judge to answer allegations of corruption in relation to the Airbus transaction.[1] Zuabi died while he was taking to a hospital.[1] Three weeks after Zuabi's death, Hafez Al Assad also died. Zuabi's body was buried in his village, Khirbat Ghazalah, after a simple funeral ceremony.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Former Syrian prime minister kills self". Deseret News (Damascus). 22 May 2000. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Robert G. Rabil (2006). Syria, The United States, and the War on Terror in the Middle East. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-275-99015-2. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Ray Hinnesbusch (2002). Syria: Revolution from Above. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-415-28568-1. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Bashar Assad". APS Diplomat Operations in Oil Diplomacy. 26 March 2001. Retrieved 15 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "Syria: A commitment to change". Euromoney. July 2001. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Eur (2003). The Middle East and North Africa 2003. Europa Publications. p. 1019. ISBN 978-1-85743-132-2. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Ex-Premier Commits Suicide". APS Diplomat Recorder. 27 May 2000. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Kifner, John (11 July 2000). "Syrians Vote To Confirm Assad's Son As President". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 April 2009. 
  9. ^ Political Chronology of the Middle East. Routledge. 12 October 2012. p. 2038. ISBN 978-1-135-35673-6. Retrieved 10 February 2013.