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Assad emails: Iran gave uprising advice; Qatar offered exile
Iran advised Syrian President Bashar Assad on how to neutralize the uprising against him, Qatar offered him exile and he used an alias to download music from iTunes, according to a cache of 3,000 emails leaked from his account and that of his wife.
The messages, said to have been obtained by a Syrian opposition group, were published Wednesday by the Guardian.
The British newspaper said it had "contacted 10 people whose e-mails appear in the cache. All have confirmed the time and content of the e-mails or refused to deny they are genuine."
The disclosures came on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the uprising, which has claimed more than 7,500 Syrian lives.
In a Dec. 31 email, Mr. Assad's media consultant suggested that the president, who belongs to Syria's minority Alawite sect, decorate an upcoming speech to the nation with Islamic trappings.
"Since the majority of our people are from the Sunni sect and are also religious, I would suggest that the speech must carry an Islamic identity," he wrote. "Since much of the opposition raise the flag of Islam it is therefore necessary for the president to snatch this identity from them, but in his own way, by using verses from the Holy Koran in the speech."
The adviser said he had engaged in "consultations with a good number of people, in addition to the media and the political attache to the Iranian ambassador" about the speech. He recommended that it convey "hostility to Israel, the first enemy of the Muslims."
The adviser conceded that "the majority of people have begun to lose confidence in the state," and urged Mr. Assad to "confirm that the train of reform is moving despite the fact that Syria's enemies do not want that."
Mr. Assad, who has promised reforms for months, referred to them in a July 6 email to his wife, Asma, as "rubbish laws of parties, elections, media."
In a Dec. 24 email, Hussein Mortada, a Lebanese businessman with ties to Iran, advised Mr. Assad not to blame a series of bombings on al Qaeda.
"It is not out of our interest to say that al Qaeda organization is behind the operation because this claim will [protect] the U.S. administration and Syrian opposition," Mr. Mortada wrote.
"I have received contacts from Iran and Hezbollah in my role as director of many Iranian-Lebanese channels and they directed me to not mention that al Qaeda is behind the operation. It is a blatant tactical media mistake."
In a Jan. 30 email, Al Mayassa Al Thani, daughter of the emir of Qatar, urged Mrs. Assad to persuade her husband to step down, suggesting he could receive exile in Doha, the capital.
"I honestly think that this is a good opportunity to leave and re-start a normal life - it can't be easy on the children, it can't be easy on you!" Ms. Al Thani wrote.
"I only pray that you will convince the president to take this as an opportunity to exit without having to face charges. The region needs to stabilize, but not more than you need peace of mind. I am sure you have many places to turn to, including Doha."
The emails show the couple trying to carry on their extravagant lifestyle while the country slipped into chaos, with Mrs. Assad routinely browsing the Internet for clothes and fine jewelry.
Mr. Assad used a different name and a New York address - presumably to sidestep U.S. sanctions - on iTunes. His purchases reveal a taste for American music, including songs by electro-pop performers LMFAO, R&B singer Chris Brown and country star Blake Shelton.
Mr. Assad also ordered a "Harry Potter" film and a biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
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About the Author
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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