A British newspaper on Wednesday published emails it claims were sent by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his wife, allegedly revealing the regime sought advice from Iran on suppressing protests.
The Guardian newspaper admits it "is impossible rule out the possibility of fakes" in the cache of over 3,000 emails, which appear also to reveal the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the leader and his wife, Asma.
The newspaper stressed it had made "extensive" efforts to authenticate the emails which it says were intercepted from the couple's private accounts and passed on by a source in the Syrian opposition.
The messages, published on the paper's website, appear to show that Assad received advice from Iran or its proxies several times during the uprising against his regime, which began exactly a year ago.
Assad's media consultant told the president he had "consultations with a good number of people in addition to the media and political adviser for the Iranian ambassador" while preparing a speech in December.
The note urged the president to use "powerful and violent" language, to show appreciation for support from "friendly states" and to "leak more information related to our military capability" in order to deter protesters.
Another message from Khaled al-Ahmed, who is thought to be Assad's adviser on Homs and Idlib, pushed the president to "tighten the security grip to start (the) operation to restore state control and authority in Idlib and Hama countryside".
He also warned Assad that European reporters had "entered the area by crossing the Lebanese borders illegally".
"Looking at the tide of history and the escalation of recent events we've seen two results; leaders stepping down and getting political asylum or leaders being brutally attacked," said Thani's message.
"I honestly think this is a good opportunity to leave and re-start a normal life. I am sure you have many places to turn to, including Doha."
Other messages believed to have been sent to and from the accounts document the couple's opulent lifestyle.
One exchange between the couple appears to show the president's wife spending thousands of dollars on candlesticks, tables and chandeliers via the Internet while another reveals the leader's eclectic taste in music.
Reported exchanges between Assad and iTunes show that the president downloaded songs by British pop duo Right Said Fred, US country star Blake Shelton, electro-pioneers New Order and eccentric US dance group LMFAO.
Assad apparently registered with a dummy email address to circumvent US sanctions.
The Guardian contacted 10 people whose messages appear in the cache to confirm their authenticity, but admitted it had not been possible to verify every one.
Activists said a mole within the president's inner circle provided them with a password for the account with the username am@alshahba which is believed to belong to the ruler.
On the eve of the first anniversary of the anti-regime revolt, Assad's opponents on Wednesday suffered setbacks on both the military and political fronts, with its Syrian National Council coalition hit by resignations.
Source: AFP Global Edition