I read this article in the Times and here are my thoughts: 1) it is all based on rumors and innuendos and speculations. 2) the diplomat cited as an authority on Asad is either the US ambassador or the French. 3) I knew that this article is not reliable when it cited a "friend of Bashshar". Bashshar has no friends, to my knowledge, and if he has any they would not be talking to the New York Times. But there is no evidence that he has real friends outside of Sulayman Franjiyyah who would never speak to the Times. 4) The article does not mention that Bashshar's presidential palace was constructed by Rafiq Hariri. 5) Typical of such articles in the Times and Western papers, all the speculation are heard from day one by exile opposition media.