What Asad’s Leaked Emails Tell Us

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Middle East In Focus

The Guardian and Al Arabiya recently revealed that they had received thousands of leaked emails from Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s personal email account. Beyond the mundane details of Asad family life, the emails expose some of the hidden characters who are not always seen as part of the regime’s power structure. While the Syrian government has refused to acknowledge the emails authenticity, others in the region have seized on them as more evidence of Asad’s cold-blooded handling of the uprising in the country.

In a statement presenting the emails to its readers, Al Arabiya notes: “The trove of Bashar al-Assad’s personal emails, leaked and released by Al Arabiya, reveal an unusual chain of command, different from hierarchies expected of regimes such as his. Those in the president’s circle has since been exposed and a story that emerges is of a tight group of people that monitored the uprising closely and advised Assad accordingly. These ‘backstage’ individuals, according to the emails, advised Assad on matters that would soon be realized by the president, all the while bypassing the traditional decision-making process of the state institutions.”

The National editorial goes beyond the identification of the president’s inner circle: “The more than 3,000 emails, from a period between last June and early February, also reveal the enormous gulf between Syria’s president and ‘his’ people. The coterie of loyalists and sycophants around the Assads are, we have long known, mainly from the family’s own Alawite sect. But what snaps clearly into focus with these emails is how far the whole inner elite is separated from the 22.5 million Syrians whom they are subjecting to bloodshed and economic decline….As these intimate supporters of a hopelessly discredited regime come to realize that their role will leave them shunned and shamed around the world, if not imprisoned or worse, then their consciences may yet emerge from hibernation.”

In its own editorial, the Gulf Times reminded Assad’s supporters that the level of disconnect between the regime and the Syrian person doesn’t bode well for the president or his followers: “A year after the revolution in Syria began, the documents reveal a family remarkably unaware of the chaos currently grappling the nation. While some of the messages indicate a particularly close and loving relationship between Assad and his wife Asma, the latest development in the Syrian saga is sure to bring more condemnation and outrage at a president completely out of touch with reality….While this story will provide more ammunition for those who oppose Assad and his regime, it will also prove something of a cautionary reminder to his supporters of another ruler in the Arab world who seemed to be completely out of touch with reality.”

Asharq Alwasat’s Tariq Alhomayed draws a parallel between Wikileaks and the ‘Assad-Leaks,’ as he calls them, arguing the latter “will have the same impact as WikiLeaks, whether in Syria or Lebanon or even Britain and the U.S. This is because some of these e-mails reveal who is in al-Assad’s inner circle, some of whom are present in the geographic regions mentioned above….The ‘Assad-Leaks’ reminds us of a strange but important irony, namely that it seems that every tyrant will see their scandals exposed before their rule comes to an end, as they lose the false prestige that was previously afforded to them by the public.  This is due to these tyrants losing touch with reality and believing that they are more clever than all those around them.”

The Saudi Arab News (which has not hidden its desire to see Asad removed from power) posts an op-ed by Abdullah Al Alami, who focuses on Syria’s communication with Iran: “It became more obvious now that Bashar Assad (AKA sam@alshaba.com) had received advice from Iran on how to ‘handle’ the uprising against his regime. Actually the communication advised Assad to use ‘powerful and violent’ language and to show appreciation for support from ‘friendly states.’…In his communication on the Net, Assad made light of reforms he had promised in an attempt to defuse the crisis, referring to rubbish laws of parties, elections, and media.”

Ultimately, the violence of the last few days are reminders of how desperate the situation in the country has become. The severity of the turmoil in Syria is highlighted in two back to back editorials by Khaleej Times. Reflecting on the one year anniversary, the first editorial poses the question: “The question is, how long can Assad hope to continue this way? Moreover, in case he does not accept even Annan’s plan, the international community may have no choice but to take severe action to stop him from murdering more people. Even Moscow and Beijing will find it difficult to justify further objections, if any, at that juncture. Russia has in fact, now called on Assad to work with Annan to end the fighting.”

The second editorial rejects any measure that doesn’t match up the immediacy of the situation: “The fact is that the regime is unyielding and wants to make its people bleed. Hoping for piecemeal measures and betting on the slogans of reforms now seems to be an academic exercise, and doesn’t come to address the urgency on ground. The Syrians are in need of a thaw and it’s high time for Assad to realize it in all sincerity. The disaster in Damascus has to come to an end.”

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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at info@mepc.org.

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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