- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
"I just want them to attack sooo much, because I want them to make this huge mistake of beginning something that they don’t know the end of it."
Those just may be the words of Bashar al-Assad’s 11-year-old son, Hafez. A Facebook account claiming to belong to Hafez posted a rambling, defiant message about what appears to be an imminent U.S. strike on Syria. The Syrian president has three children — Hafez, Zein, and Karim — of which Hafez is the oldest.
First, some serious caveats are in order. It is impossible to confirm with any certainty that Hafez wrote these words. There is nothing official about the Facebook page — and indeed, the owner of the account claims to be a soccer player for FC Barcelona and to have graduated from the University of Oxford. But such fantasies would, of course, not be out of place on the Facebook page of any 11-year-old.
Meanwhile, the clues suggesting that the Facebook account is real are hard to fake. Hafez’s post appears to be "liked" by the children and grandchildren of the top figures of the regime: The son and daughter of Assef Shawkat, the former deputy minister of defense, approved of the message. Sally and Ali Khierbek — members of the powerful Alawite Khierbek family, headed by Deputy Vice President for Security Mohammad Nasif Khierbek — also liked the post. The picture used by the account also appears to be a professional photograph used by the Assad family. Finally, the biography on the account claims that its user went to a Montessori school in Damascus — a fact that coincides with what we know about Hafez from Vogue‘s 2011 profile of first lady Asma al-Assad.
As might be expected of an 11-year-old in an extremely politically charged environment, the post represents a faithful accounting of the Assad family’s perspective on its struggle against both domestic insurgents and the United States.
"12 hours we waited [for the military strike]…. 48 hours they said, we’re waiting," the post begins, before launching into a denunciation of the U.S. military. "America doesn’t have soldiers, what it has is some cowards with new technology who claim themselves liberators."
The post acknowledges that the U.S. Army may be superior to the Syrian military, but that the determination of Syria’s armed forces give them a leg up over foreign invaders. "[M]aybe they will destroy the army, but they will never destroy these remnants and little bits of resistance, it’s who we are, we were born to fight and resist, we will fight them everywhere until they get out."
The post ends with a promise to fight until the last man: If America invades, Hafez writes, "they don’t know our land like we do, no one does, victory is ours in the end no matter how much time it takes."
We can’t prove this was written by Assad’s son — but at the very least, it was written by someone doing a convincing impersonation of what the family believes.