Syrian President Bashar Assad took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule, according to a cache of what appear to be several thousand e-mails received and sent by the Syrian leader and his wife.
The e-mails, which were published by the British Guardian on Wednesday, also prove the Syrian leader was briefed in detail about the presence of western journalists in the Baba Amr district of Homs and urged to “tighten the security grip” on the opposition-held city.
The revelations are contained in more than 3,000 documents that activists say are e-mails downloaded from private accounts belonging to Assad and his wife Asma and were obtained by the Guardian. According to the report, the emails were intercepted by members of the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution group between June and early February.
The emails show that Mrs. Assad spent more than £10,000 on candlesticks, tables and chandeliers from Paris and instructed an aide to order a fondue set from Amazon.
The Guardian said it has made extensive efforts to authenticate the emails, by checking their contents against established facts and contacting ten individuals whose correspondence appears in the cache. These checks suggest the messages are genuine, but it has not been possible to verify every one.
The emails show how Assad assembled a team of aides to advise him on media strategy and how to position himself in the face of increasing international criticism of his regime's attempts to crush the uprising, the Guardian said.
They also appear to show that Assad received advice from Iran or its proxies on several occasions during the crisis.
One example was before a speech in December, when Assad’s media consultant prepared a long list of themes, reporting that the advice was based on “consultations with a good number of people in addition to the media and political adviser for the Iranian ambassador.”
The memo advised Assad to use “powerful and violent” language and to show appreciation for support from “friendly states,” the Guardian reported. It also advised that the regime should “leak more information related to our military capability” to convince the public that it could withstand a military challenge.
Among those who communicated with the president's account were Khaled al-Ahmed who, it is believed, was given the task of advising about Homs and Idlib. In November, according to the report, Ahmed wrote to Assad urging him to “tighten the security grip to start [the] operation to restore state control in Idlib and Hama countryside.”
He also advised Assad that he had been told European reporters had “entered the area by crossing the Lebanese borders illegally.” In another message he warned the president that “a tested source who met with leaders of groups in Baba Amr today said a big shipment of weapons coming from Libya will arrive to the shores of one of the neighboring states within three days to be smuggled to Syria.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the United Nations said that more than 230,000 Syrians have fled their homes during the bloody year-long crackdown on the uprising.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' coordinator for Syria said 30,000 people have already fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, adding that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent reported that at least 200,000 of the people who have fled their homes are within the country itself.
Earlier this week, Syrian troops committed another massacre in Idlib, murdering 55 people. The massacre came one day after the Syrian regime killed at least 47 women and children in a massacre in the Karm al-Zeitoun neighborhood in Homs.
The problems in his own country did not stop Assad from condemning Israeli air raids on Gaza on Tuesday.
The Syrian Foreign Minister said in a statement that the country “roundly condemns Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and urges the international community to undertake urgent steps to put an end to these activities and to sanction those responsible.”