The Guardian has obtained what it believes to be a trove of e-mails between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his wife and their inner circle.
The 3,000 messages are believed to have been first intercepted by members of the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution group between June and early February. The Guardian says it has made extensive efforts to authenticate the e-mails by talking to individuals whose correspondence appeared in the cache, and by checking the contents against established facts. But the news site stresses it has not been possible to verify every message.
The information in the e-mails ranges from the shocking (Assad knew about Western journalists in Homs) to the absurd (his wife spent thousands on jewelry and furniture). But what it all adds up to is a picture of a family enjoying a plush lifestyle as it remains insulated from the ongoing violence on the streets.
Read the top seven apparent revelations from the e-mails, after the jump.
• Assad took advice from Iran.
The Syrian leader apparently asked Iran how to handle the uprising against his regime. When Assad’s media consultant prepared a speech for the president in December, he told Assad to use “powerful and violent language,” based on “consultations with a good number of people in addition to the media and political adviser for the Iranian ambassador.”
• Assad made fun of reforms he’d promised.
Remember all those reforms — never enacted — that Assad promised to try to placate protesters? He made light of them in his e-mails, referring to “rubbish laws of parties, elections, media.”
• Assad knew about Western journalists in Homs
The Syrian leader was “briefed in detail” about the presence of Western journalists in the besieged Baba Amr district of Homs. The regime had said earlier that it didn’t know the journalists were there. Assad also urged that government forces “tighten the security grip” on Homs.
• Asma Assad spend thousands of dollars over the Internet
The president’s wife favors designer goods. She spent more than $15,000 on candlesticks, tables and chandeliers from Paris. She asked an aide to order a fondue set from Amazon. And Asma apparently used a Dubai-based company, al-Shahba, which has a registered office in London, to make her private purchases.
• Assad also shopped, despite sanctions
Extensive U.S. sanctions did not stop the Syrian president from making purchases either, mostly of music and apps from Apple’s iTunes, using a third party with a U.S. address.
• Assad’s aides advised, but also joked with him
The aides reported to Assad through a “private” e-mail account, where they often advised him on media strategy in the face of rising international pressure to step down. Once, Assad forwarded his aides a link to a YouTube video that showed a reenactment of the siege of Homs using toys and biscuits.
• Doha could offer the Assads exile
Al-Mayassa al-Thani, a daughter of the emir of Qatar, at one time advised the Syrian first family to leave the country. She also suggested Doha may offer them exile.
Activists from the Supreme Council of the Revolution say they monitored the inboxes of the Assads for several months, and in that time used information to warn the opposition about possible moves by the regime.
Read more about the e-mails at the Guardian .