Report

Leaked Documents Provide Insight into Assad Regime

Lebanese news publication NOW has published a trove of documents, including more than 3,000 emails, leaked from the Assad regime. The official correspondence illustrates the Assad regime’s use of public relations firms and pliant journalists to try to maintain its image while coordinating its brutal crackdown in the early months of the war. A subset ...

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Lebanese news publication NOW has published a trove of documents, including more than 3,000 emails, leaked from the Assad regime. The official correspondence illustrates the Assad regime’s use of public relations firms and pliant journalists to try to maintain its image while coordinating its brutal crackdown in the early months of the war. A subset of the documents was published previously by the Guardian in 2012.

The emails single out a handful of reporters who the regime saw as more favorable than most, and who were granted better access to regime figures. Other emails include some between the regime and British law firm Carter Ruck which pressed the Daily Mail to retract a false story and pay damages. They also are oddly intimate at times — as in Asma al-Assad’s correspondence with Azmi Miqati, a Lebanese businessman whose uncle was then-Prime Minister Najib Miqati. Some emails — especially those from Bashar al-Assad’s father-in-law — show a conspiratorial streak, and include links to 9/11 truther videos and claims that al-Qaeda does not exist.

Yemen-bound Iranian Ship Gets Naval Escort

The Iranian cargo ship purportedly carrying humanitarian aid and expected to try to dock in Hodeida tomorrow has been joined by two Iranian warships, setting up a potential showdown with U.S. and Saudi vessels in the region. “Just getting them to go to Djibouti and…inspected would be considered a victory for the U.N. way of doing things because Iran’s not flouting international agreements and it keeps everyone away from these potentially dangerous showdowns,” a U.S. defense official told the Wall Street Journal. “The thing that would cause the most problems is if the Saudis boarded it.”

Headlines

  • The trial of Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian for espionage charges has been set to begin on May 26; Rezaian has been held in an Iranian prison since July 2014.

 

  • The Algerian government said that it killed 22 militants near Bouira, east of Algiers; the militants were killed during an operation targeting al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, but the affiliation of the killed fighters was not reported.

 

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the suspension of a plan pushed forward by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that would segregate Palestinians and Jewish settlers on buses traveling to and from the West Bank.

 

  • Italian authorities have arrested a Moroccan man in Gaggiano, near Milan, suspected of being the third gunman in the March 27 attack on the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.

 

  • Saudi Arabia is compensating for lower oil prices and declining sales to the United States by accelerating its shift toward east Asian markets, including China.

Arguments and Analysis

Arming Iraq’s Kurds: Fighting IS, Inviting Conflict” (International Crisis Group)

“Coalition military aid is premised on a belief that giving weapons and training to Kurdish forces, known as peshmergas, will in itself improve their performance against IS [the Islamic State], a notion Kurdish leaders were quick to propagate. But the evolving state of Iraqi Kurdish politics makes for a rather more ambiguous picture: the dominant, rival parties, the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), have been moving away from a strategic framework agreement that had stabilised their relationship after a period of conflict and allowed them to present a unified front to the central government as well as neighbouring Iran and Turkey. Moreover, their historic leaders, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, are on the political wane, triggering an intra-elite power struggle.”

Retaking Ramadi: U.S. Assistance and Shiite-Sunni Cooperation” (Michael Knights, Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

“If there is a silver lining to Ramadi’s fall, it is that Anbar’s security has emerged as the clear priority for Baghdad and its international allies. This was not the case for much of the past year, when opinions differed over whether Anbar or Mosul should be the focus. Mosul won out for a while: last October, for example, Moslawi candidate Khalid al-Obeidi was chosen over an Anbari alternative as Iraq’s new defense minister. And as recently as February, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was describing the ISIS threat in Anbar as ‘contained.’”

 

-J. Dana Stuster

ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images

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