Power in Syria today is based on a narrow, clannish system, more akin to what was described by Ibn Khaldoun 600 years ago than to Western “development theory” or “the non-capitalist road.” Family ties are key. In the Syrian army, a major can have more power than a general if he is, like Mouin Nasif, a relative of Rif‘at al-Asad. Muhammad Makhloud, director of the State Tobacco Monopoly, is the president’s brother-in-law. A veritable army is responsible for protecting him and his family. His house in Damascus has practically been transformed into a fortress.