Ayman Jaber had not been known before the revolution in Syria, except maybe for the Assad family. Jaber shared a life of poverty with his parents, three brothers, and two sisters in the village of al-Shilfatiyah in rural Lattakia. He became involved in smuggling, and became acquainted with Fawaz al-Asaad, who dominated the port of Lattakia and imposed fees on goods entering and leaving Syria.
Jaber quickly gained prominence. His relationship with Maher al-Assad strengthened through Jaber’s marriage to the daughter of Kamal al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s cousin. This marriage alliance opened the gates for illicit business opportunities. Jaber began amassing a huge fortune smuggling of tobacco and oil for the Iraqi regime in the 1990s. Jaber made his wealth through the “Oil for Food” program, smuggling Iraqi oil “outside the UN program” through the port of Lattakia and Tartous in the interest of the Saddam Hussein regime.
This business aided him in founding the Council for Iron and Steel in Syria, investing in contracting operations, and helping found the Cham Holding company, owned by Rami Makhluf, Assad’s cousin. Jaber also helped found the al-Dunya satellite channel, and owns the Arab Iron Milling Company in the Jableh area. He was also a member of the Arab Iron and Steel Union, and was honorary president of the Wafaa lil-Watan Association (Loyalty to the homeland), which provides aid and support to the families of regime fighters killed in the war.
Jaber owns a number of companies in Lebanon, the most prominent of which are al-Jazeera al-Muttahida for Public Transport, Commerce in Oil Products, and Oil Services; Arab Energy Company and al-‘Arabiya al-Muttahida for Public Transport, Commerce in Oil Products, and Oil Services.
Because of his financial activities and his support for militias, the United States and the European Union have listed him on their economic sanctions lists. His funds and assets have been frozen and he is prevented from traveling.
With the outbreak of popular demonstrations in March 2011, Ayman and his brother Muhammad formed “National Defense” brigades under various names. The most important of these were Suqur al-Sahra’ and Maghawir al-Bahr. Jaber paid these militias fighters, and is also accused of converting his ironworks in Jableh into a factory for barrel bombs, which Assad used to bombard opposition areas.