A Facebook post said to be written by the 11-year-old son of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and “liked” or commented on by several people who appear to be the children and grandchildren of other senior members of Mr. Assad’s government, may offer a glimpse into the mindset of Syria’s ruling elite as the country braces for a potential Western strike in response toa chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21.
It is impossible to confirm whether the Facebook account does, in fact, belong to the son, Hafez al-Assad, and aspects of it invite doubt. For example, the owner of the account wrote that he was a graduate of Oxford University and a player for a Barcelona soccer team, neither of which would be likely to appear on the résumé of an 11-year-old boy in Damascus.
But those claims could also be read as the ambitions of a child, and there are reasons to believe that the account may actually belong to Hafez.
The owner of the account wrote that he was a graduate of a Montessori school in Damascus, a detail of the Assad children’s lives that Vogue magazine reported in a February 2011 profile of their mother, Asma al-Assad. That article portrayed them as typical suburban children who played with remote control cars and watched Tim Burton movies on an iMac as they lounged around the family home, described as running “on wildly democratic principles.” It has since been removed from the Vogue Web site, but Joshua Landis, a well-known scholar of Syrian politics, posted a copy to his blog.
Perhaps most significantly, the Facebook post said to have been written by Hafez al-Assad has been “liked” or commented on by several accounts that appear to belong to the children or grandchildren of other senior figures in the Assad administration. Among them are accounts that seemingly belong to two children of Deputy Vice President Mohammed Nassif Khierbek, Ali andSally, and to three children of a former deputy defense minister, Assef Shawkat, who was killed in a bombing in July 2012.
The accounts said to belong to the children of Mr. Shawkat — one of his sons,Bassel, and two of his daughters, Anisseh and Boushra — appeared to be authentic, according to a Syrian journalist from Damascus who has extensive knowledge of the country’s ruling elite and spoke on condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. Mr. Shawkat was married to the sister of Bashar al-Assad, making these three children cousins of Mr. Assad’s son Hafez, who is believed to be the author of the Facebook post.
Many of the people who commented on the post had changed their profile pictures to show portraits of the Syrian leader or his father, also named Hafez, who ruled the country for three decades before Bashar al-Assad took power in 2000. Several of them referenced the author’s relationship to the two President Assads. One referred to the author by a diminutive and familiar nickname, “Hafouz,” and complimented him for his strength and intelligence, writing that such a feat was unsurprising for the son and grandson of the past two presidents. Another commenter wrote: “Like father like son! Well said future President!”
If the Facebook post attributed to Mr. Assad’s son is a hoax, it is either a highly elaborate one involving dozens of fake accounts purporting to belong to the children of other regime insiders, or a forgery so impressive that some of those children themselves — including the boy’s cousins — have been fooled.
Regardless of its provenance, the post appears to illustrate the mindset of Mr. Assad’s core supporters, who have stood by him through more than two years of a grinding war that has killed more than 100,000 Syrians and caused millions more to flee their homes.
The post is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors that would not be unusual for a child, and it may offer a glimpse into the way the country’s leaders — or, at the very least, Mr. Assad’s supporters — speak to one another and to their families as the specter of foreign military intervention looms.
Judging from the post, supporters of Mr. Assad do not appear to be particularly afraid of the United States.
“They may have the best army in the world, maybe the best airplanes, ships, tanks than ours, but soldiers? No one has soldiers like the ones we do in Syria,” the post’s author wrote of the United States military. “America doesn’t have soldiers, what it has is some cowards with new technology who claim themselves liberators.”
The author then compared the potential American airstrikes to the 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, a close ally of the Assad regime in the current conflict. Many in the Arab world saw Hezbollah as the victor of the 2006 clash.
“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,” he wrote. “What did Hezbollah have back then? Some street fighters and some small rockets and a pile of guns, but they had belief, In theirselves and in their country and that’s exactly what’s gonna happen to America if it chooses invasion because 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.”