As­sad emails: Iran gave up­ris­ing ad­vice, Qatar of­fered ex­ile

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY BEN BIRN­BAUM

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 emails 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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