January 11, 2010, - 3:43 pm

Whores: America’s New Syria-Enabling Money Men

By Debbie Schlussel

Syria is still on the State Department terrorist list.  It’s still host to the alphabet soup of Islamic terrorist groups–HAMAS, the PFLP, Islamic Jihad, etc.  It’s the chief enabler, in tandem with Iran, of Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Syria participated in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Beirut barracks, which murdered 241 of our soldiers while they slept.  The Assad kingdom allows the most Al-Qaeda terrorists through its borders and into Iraq to blow up our troops.  And the country remains host and sanctuary for Nazi war criminal Alois Brunner and Jamil Gashey, the only surviving perpetrator of the Munich Olympic massacre of the Israeli Olympic Team.  And don’t forget the Syrian nuclear facility the Israelis blew up and the military equipment the Syrians bought from North Korea.



Bill Miller, Barton Biggs, Steven Galbraith: Syria’s Newest American Whores

All of those things are no biggie to Bill Miller of Legg Mason Capital Management, Barton Biggs, managing partner of Traxis Partners, a New York hedge fund, and Steven Galbraith, a partner at Maverick Capital, a $11 billion hedge fund.  They led a group of investors to Syria and Lebanon, looking for ways to invest in Syria and further enable the country’s extremism without any conditions.  On Detroit’s famed Eight Mile Road, we have people just like them.  They’re called prostitutes.

Late last year a group of big-name investors—including Bill Miller of Legg Mason Capital Management and Barton Biggs, managing partner of Traxis Partners, a New York hedge fund—spent a week in Syria and Lebanon. They met with top political leaders, local businesspeople, and were feted with elaborate dinners with the cream of society. . . .

Syria—until recently a pariah state in the eyes of the U.S.—proved irresistible, drawing an unusual array of money managers. . . .

“This was not a group of naive investors, and [I] have to say it opened all our eyes,” said Steven Galbraith, a partner at Maverick Capital, a $11 billion hedge fund. . . .

Spearheaded by Mr. Biggs and Wafic Said, a wealthy Syrian-born industrialist who lives in Europe, the trip drew money managers from Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and a number of hedge funds; a senior executive from Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s state-owned investment arm; and a strategist from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest sovereign-wealth funds.

The scouting mission came amid efforts by the Syrian government to open the country to foreign investment, and signals from the U.S. that it will rebuild diplomatic ties.

At the top of Syria’s agenda: bringing in private capital to collaborate on infrastructure projects. Some other steps under discussion, according to those who traveled there, include a potential bond offering by the country on international markets, and the creation of an investment fund aimed at attracting foreign capital. . . .

Several investors said Syria reminded them of former Eastern bloc countries like Poland, Hungary, and then-Czechoslovakia just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “It’s super-early days,” said one investor with decades of experience in emerging markets who was part of the group. “There’s very little to do there, but there will be.”

One early dividend from the trip is a change in perception. While some presentations by government officials were “pretty pathetic,” says Mr. Biggs, the group came away with the opposite impression of Syria’s President, Bashar Assad, and its deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Abdullah Dardari.

Mr. Assad provided direct and open answers to their questions, the investors said, and talked about the need to raise incomes, build infrastructure, and ease the government’s grip on the economy.

This was “a fairly cynical group,” Mr. Biggs says. But “he blew them away.”

Wow, “a fairly cynical group” of whores from America were blown away by a murderer. Awesome. Maybe if more Americans start enabling terrorists, assassinations in neighboring countries, and participating in torture and human rights abuses of its citizens, we can get some investors from this group to put some money into America’s economy, instead of this backwater branch of Greater Arabia’s United States of Savagery.

Disgusting.  What’s next?  How about some nice investments in North Korea and Iran, while they’re at it?  Ya know–just to be fair.

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12 Responses

Hmmm…using American expertise and money to further destroy America. Wow! What a concept!

Keith in Houston on January 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Bill Miller walked away with millions in management fees despite poor performance in ’07 and ’08. Funny, I don’t recall Miller ever leading a team of investors to Israel, which is not just a democratic ally, but has proven a real economic success story in recent years. Warren Buffet invested some $4 Billion in Israel’s Isscar a few years ago, so he’s clearly a much savvier investor than Miller.

Raymond in DC on January 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Investing in police states doesn’t usually turn out so well for the investors…The Dictator running the country, of course, doesn’t mind such useful idiots. (And if any problems should arise, just what civil “court” will the investors plead their case to? as I laugh. The same problems occurred in Russia, btw. Investors lost out big time.)

J.S. on January 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm

As you pointed out, the main problem with this visit is the political one; i.e. giving credibility to a country that is an enemy of ours, and against everything that good Americans stand for.

Having said that, I think there is a strong element of opportunism in this visit. As Raymond pointed out, Miller has not been successful in recent years, and the investments of these people tanked with the current downturn. They are desperate for more investors’ money and new ideas to entice people to depart with their money in this hazardous investment climate.

So here’s the new idea; Syria is the latest gold mine (no pun intended on Glenn Beck, Michael Savage or Mark Levin), a way to convince investors to depart with their money.

This shows the cynicism, apart from the disgusting politics, of these investment managers; I remember in the early 90s they were all yelling and screaming about the great opportunities in Russia. Investors would do well to find managers with less cynicism. Of course an economy like Syria’s would doom investors since this dictatorial economy is stagnant. As Raymond pointed out, Israel would be a far better investment for people free of anti-Semitism, & who thought their clientele was free of anti-Semitism.

Little Al on January 11, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Authoritarian regimes make very poor business partners. If a joint-venture is entered into, it is very likely to be expropriated by the regime(under some flimsy pretext)if it is at all successful. You can see examples of this in Russia, Venezuela, and in other such states. Many investors, even allegedly sophisticated ones, let their ignorance and greed drive their actions. I am setting aside the ethical and moral issues in order to make entirely clear the stupidity of such people.

    sorrow01 on January 12, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Debbie – I think the culprits here are higher up the food chain than these cretins.

From the online wsj article cited above:

“At the top of Syria’s agenda: bringing in private capital to collaborate on infrastructure projects.”

There is simply no way anyone would want to invest in Syria’s infrastructure unless they know Israel won’t go after Syria’s infrastructure. Who could be giving such guarantees?

I_AM_ME on January 11, 2010 at 6:48 pm

as JS above is aware, property rights are a problem since there are no real courts in Syria [that is, not courts independent of the govt which, yes, Virginia, is a dictatorship].

But as I understand it, the US Govt or the State Dept can forbid US citizens or companies from investing in companies abroad that are on an official blacklist. So why don’t we ask the State Dept why can’t they forbid investment in Syria? But then many Washington insiders are pro-Syrian, such as jim baker, lee hamilton [a mentor of prez obama], and many other not so good men and not so true.

Eliyahu on January 12, 2010 at 7:59 am

I would be interested in what companies these VC firms have a stake in so I can know what products and services to avoid.

Michael Fosse on January 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

“On Detroit’s famed Eight Mile Road, we have people just like them. They’re called prostitutes.”

I think the prostitutes are more fundamentally decent than these characters. They are at least not financing terror regimes with their activities. I think a comparison with Adolf Hitler’s financiers would be more apt, or Sweden at the time.

sorrow01 on January 12, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I guess Mr. Miller was fine and dandy with the treatment of the Israeli Davis Cup team in Malmo. Puts the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington D.C. in a whole new light.

FeFe on January 13, 2010 at 11:31 am

Another amazing, shocking, critically important article, Debbie. Already circulating it to my friends. You continue to honor yourself, the US and Israel with your work. Thank you!

Jeff Patriot on January 15, 2010 at 4:29 am

Debbie are you sure that’s not you who’s the hooker in that pic (BURN!!!)

Jessie on October 8, 2010 at 12:15 am

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