In a time when his kingdom's walls are crumbling amid a bloody civil war, Syrian President Bashar Assad may be looking to expand his empire in the one way he still can: by having another child with his wife.
The Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which has close ties to the Syrian regime, claimed on Monday that President Bashar Assad's wife Asma is pregnant with her fourth child. The Washington Post explains that President Assad reportedly referenced the news during a talk with yet unidentified "visitors," who alerted Al Akhbar. At the same time, Assad also claimed the Syrian army "regained the initiative on the ground to a very high degree and achieved important results, which will come to light soon."
Al Akhbar did not provide further details on the alleged pregnancy. But in November 2012, Jordan-based website Al Bawaba reported the Syrian outlet Akhbar Shabab Soriya as claiming Syria's first lady was five months pregnant.
For many years, Asma Assad, 37, was a darling of the foreign press, once described in Vogue magazine as a "rose in the desert."
A British-educated former investment banker, Asma cultivated the image of a glamorous yet serious-minded woman with strong Western-inspired values who was meant to humanise the increasingly secretive and isolated Assad family.
That image crumbled when her husband responded to an anti-government rebellion with extreme violence a year ago. Asma had clearly decided to stand by her man despite international revulsion at his actions. Assad himself says he is fighting an insurrection, involving foreign-backed "terrorists".
Syria's first lady has largely remained out of the public eye since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011. According to Al Bawaba, the president's wife's last public appearance was in January 2012, when she appeared at a pro-government rally in Damascus. In a statement released in February 2012, her office reportedly said "the First Lady's very busy agenda is still focused on supporting the various charities she has long been involved with and rural development as well as supporting the President as needed."