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BIDEN GRANTS VISA TO ASSAD'S COUSIN IN APPARENT SANCTIONS VIOLATION

Republicans Say That May Have Violated Sanctions.

Son of Assad’s cousin spotted in Instagram post drinking at a California bar



Pictured: In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, embraces Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, Iran, on February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP). The Syrian dictator thanked the Iranian tyrant for partner ing with him in the war in which they murdered over 500,000 men, women and children using barrel bombs and chemical weapons. $1 billion of the money Iran reaped in the disastrous Iran Deal (JCPOA) was used to keep Assad afloat and finance his atrocities - and the Iranians also provided soldiers, training and munitions.


Via The Washington Free Beacon

Adam Kredo -

June 26, 2024


Mohammed Makhlouf, the son of Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s maternal cousin, was allegedly spotted earlier this month on Instagram drinking at a bar in the Santa Monica area of California, according to two GOP lawmakers and Washington Free Beacon analysis on the photo. Reps. Kevin Hern (R., Okla.) and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) say the picture initiated an investigation into how and why a member of Assad’s family was permitted into the country at a time when the Syrian dictator and his family members are under heavy U.S. sanctions.


"This is outrageous. This man’s father was sanctioned since the Bush administration for being the most corrupt oligarch in Syria," Wilson, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, told the Free Beacon.


"The fact that his son can waltz into this country shows that both our immigration and sanctions laws are broken." Wilson is the architect of recently passed House legislation that extends sanctions on the Assad family to include direct relatives.


Mohammed Makhlouf’s brother, Ali, was spotted in Los Angeles in 2021 while driving a $300,000 Ferrari, the Free Beacon reported at the time. This also drew outrage on Capitol Hill and allegations the Biden administration was seeking to normalize relations with the Assad regime as it commits mass human rights abuses as part of a decade-long civil war. The latest example, spotted by the lawmakers late last month, is generating similar concerns about U.S. policy towards Syria under President Joe Biden.


"The Assad family in the U.S. is a direct security risk, proving the Biden administration is asleep at the wheel on American national security," Rep. Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, Congress’s largest GOP caucus, told the Free Beacon. "With our southern border wide open and millions of known gotaways, Joe Biden is allowing lawlessness to thrive."

A State Department spokesman would not initially comment on the matter, citing the confidentiality of U.S. visa records, but followed up to say that national security is a top concern when reviewing visa applications.


"National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications," the State Department said. "Every prospective traveler to the United States undergoes extensive security screening. Prohibiting travel to the United States by those who might pose a threat is key to protecting U.S. citizens at home."


Visa applicants, the official said, are "continuously screened" to ensure that those visiting the country "remain eligible to travel to the United States." Security officials draw on information from "the full range of U.S. government agencies," including law enforcement and counterterrorism databases, according to the State Department. "No visas are issued until all concerns raised through the screening process are fully adjudicated."


A senior GOP congressional aide who has been tracking the matter said the State Department’s response indicates that it is "doing damage control" after lawmakers began raising questions about Mohammad Makhlouf’s Instagram posting.


"This is a verified Instagram account. Nothing in the picture looks inauthentic," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. Congress, the source added, is pursuing a multi-pronged investigation into the State Department and the visa processes that allowed an Assad relative entry into America.


The House has already approved legislation, led by Rep. Wilson, that would extend sanctions to Assad’s relatives, blocking their access to America. But that bill is stalled in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, which is led by Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), sources told the Free Beacon.

The Instagram picture of Makhlouf appears to have been snapped at a bar in Santa Monica, California, according to open-source information. Makhlouf did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment sent via his Instagram account.

Makhlouf is an entrepreneur and received a bachelor’s degree in business from American University in Dubai, according to a 2019 profile by the Baltimore Post Examiner that touted the Syrian businessman’s various real estate projects.


A letter to the editor criticized the paper for failing to mention Makhlouf’s ties to Assad.

"I was dismayed to see an article praising Mohammed Makhlouf published on the website of a reputable newspaper," reader Kelly Grotke wrote. "This piece is an attempt to normalize a brutal, corrupt regime. I do not understand how this article passed your editorial review process. This is not a news article but a PR piece for Makhlouf’s company, MRM Holdings, which stands to profit from rebuilding the cities destroyed by the Assads and their Russian allies."


"The Makhlouf family," Grotke wrote, "which is related to the Assads by marriage, has played a very significant role in defining the character of the regime in Syria."

Regional analysts contacted by the Free Beacon could not independently verify Makhlouf’s post, but said the picture does appear to have been taken in America due to the presence of alcohol and hockey showing on a television screen in the background. Syria watchers on X, formerly Twitter, alleged that Makhlouf was in California to attend a graduation ceremony.

It is unclear if Makhlouf holds a U.S. passport or an extended visa that may have facilitated his travel to America.


A May 2020 Sky News report about the Makhlouf family identified the same instagram account as belonging to Mohammed.


Joel Rayburn, the former special envoy for Syria during the Trump administration, said the Biden administration has failed to enforce American sanctions on Syria throughout its tenure in office.


"For more than three years the Biden administration has declined to enforce U.S. law where the Assad regime is concerned," Rayburn said. "Not only has their enforcement of sanctions been minimal, their recent blocking of the anti-normalization of Assad bill—which had overwhelming congressional support—has given the entire Middle East the impression that Biden harbors a secret intention to normalize relations or negotiate a deal with an Assad regime that continues to bomb civilians, sponsor terror, host the [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp], and traffic narcotics."

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