The Washington Post

Think tanker looks at politics of Assad’s ‘hot wife’

Monday’s New York Times front page story (“Syria’s Assads Turned to West for Glossy PR Campaign”) about the lengths — and expense — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, went to in creating an image of a young Arab first couple ushering in democracy and modernity uses a think tanker employing unusual political analysis.

Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech in Damascus, Syria, June 20, 2011. (AP/SANA, File)

Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, eschews traditional policy and political analysis for a much more superficial explanation for why the Assads had such willing participants in their media campaign and why Barbara Walters turned a blind eye when it came to helping the daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations.

Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who once worked for a charity sponsored by Mrs. Assad, summed up the appeal the Assads had for some news outlets: “He speaks English, and his wife is hot.”

And then, when discussing Barbara Walters’ conflict of interest by helping the daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations following her December 2011 interview with Bashar al-Assad:

Mr. Tabler said that he didn’t “find it surprising what Walters did for her.” The issue, he said, was the timing.

“At that point, how many had been killed — 7,000?” he said. “This is an attractive young woman, and she speaks English. Maybe you help her with an introduction. To get beyond that is a little difficult to swallow.”

Even the Washington Institute thought the line was worth promoting on Twitter.

Is this the work of think tankers or am I just old-fashioned in thinking this is more what one expects from celebrity media critics?

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He freelances and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.


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