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Thursday, March 15, 2012 

Life as a dictator isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Everything you could have expected to be said about the supposed Assad emails very kindly provided to the Graun by the Syrian opposition has duly been said. At one end of the scale there's the obvious but not cliched banality of evil references, while at the other there's the most definitely cliched allusions to fiddling while burning and letting them eat cake. If anything, as Peter Beaumont has said, the emails for the most part portray a very boring if normal couple living through what is for both them and the country they rule an extraordinary time. Whether it also makes them look more human, as he also suggests, is not so clear cut: yes, there's the affection between husband and wife, even to the point of the sick-inducing with Bashar apparently sending Asma the lyrics to an awful country song, yet there's also the aloofness that has long been associated with Assad, as well as the indulgence of bizarre conspiracy theories.

This is of course if the emails are genuine. Angry Arab has suggested they're an obvious forgery, which seems to be a very hastily reached conclusion to say the least. If they are a hoax, and there have been innumerable incredibly well crafted hoaxes in the past that have fooled some high profile experts on the subject they target, then these must rank with the very best. They would have required inside knowledge of the Syrian regime's closest confidants, including potentially access to their email accounts, as the cache given to the Guardian includes emails that have been confirmed by the senders themselves to be genuine.

This isn't to say that some of the emails haven't been planted: Assad's supposed purchases on iTunes frankly stink, and not just because of how bad the artists are. Right Said Fred, Cliff Richard, LMFAO, really? The Assads do have three children, which might explain some of it, but honestly, Sexy and I Know It? It does almost seem to be asking for a parody video, which might have been the aim of those who were "monitoring" the account. Making a dictator a laughing stock rather than someone to be feared is always a good way to start the fomentation of a revolution, yet Syria has surely moved beyond that stage. In any case, hate ought to be a far more powerful emotion in this instance, and that should be amply provided by Asma's apparent purchases of various luxury goods, all of which could be easily verified: vases from Harrods, Armani lights, jewellery, chandeliers. She might not be Imelda Marcos, to venture back into slight cliche, but she does fill the almost required role of a dictator's wife, to be both spoilt and "interested" in charity.

And that, frankly, is it. The emails might further enrage those determined to bring Assad down, and could make a few of those reluctantly still favouring the status quo reconsider, yet at this point you doubt that there's anyone who hasn't already made their mind up about what is likely to become civil war. They're an insight, and very little else.

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