Jaafari’s lengthy public statements have been closely watched by Syrians, spawning a series of Facebook pages by admirers and detractors. One Facebook page remarks on the irony of a comment Jaafari made in the Security Council, recalling how in the 1950s and 1960s he and his schoolmates would donate their spare change to the liberation movement in Algeria and the Persian Gulf.
“We were happy to donate our pocket money, little as it was, to help liberate the gulf from Colonial rule,” he said.
Like many other top Syrian diplomats, Jaafari, 55, is a member of the ruling Baath Party.
A towering physical presence, he stands out from many of his Syrian diplomatic colleagues with an academic pedigree that features three PhDs, including a doctorate in political science at the Sorbonne in Paris, and family links to Iran — his wife is of Iranian descent, and his daughter was born there.
At the United Nations, his speeches have been remarkable for their historical and literary allusions. Drawing inspiration from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust,” he once belittled his Arab neighbors for joining forces with the West against a fellow Arab.
“A human being should not sell his or her soul to Satan in exchange for illusory gains that could destroy that person’s hope for freedom down the road,” he said in a Security Council address.
He has all but reveled in his diplomatic isolation, delivering elaborately worded put-downs of his colleagues from Britain, France, the United States, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, describing his Persian Gulf rivals as tin-pot autocracies that know nothing about democracy and that “prevent women from attending a soccer match.”
Even Google has felt his wrath. Last month, Jaafari accused the Internet giant of fomenting dissention in Syria after opposition figures used Google’s mapping application to rename streets and other landmarks after revolutionary heroes, wiping away regime references.
Jaafari has also been entwined with Assad through family ties, but in a way that has raised questions about his own personal access to the president. His daughter, Sheherezade, a graduate of Hunter College in her early 20s and a Syrian press aide, had developed a close personal relationship with the Syrian leader, with whom she maintained an informal, and often flirtatious, e-mail correspondence, according to a trove of personal presidential e-mails leaked to the Guardian and al-Arabiya.
Jaafari often used his daughter as a channel to send diplomatic messages to the president, bypassing the Foreign Ministry. In one e-mail, dated Dec. 14, Jaafari exposed the identity of a former Syrian diplomat who had anonymously criticized the regime in a BBC interview and warned Assad to stem further breaks with the regime.
“I would advise you to refer this matter to its high destination for consideration,” Jaafari wrote his daughter in an apparent reference to the e-mail’s ultimate recipient, Assad. “I would recommend to deal with it very seriously because, later on, I’m [quite] sure this anonymous diplomat will disclose his identity and will become another ‘star of the satellite channels.’ ” That, he said, would be “proof of defection in the Syrian diplomatic corps, something that didn’t happen till now.”
Jaafari declined to be interviewed for this article. Asked to comment on the authenticity of the e-mails, he said, “I comment on politics, not caricatures.”