Who will get to keep Asma al-Assad?

Bashar al-Assad has been reticent about his plans for the first lady, but sources say he would be willing to trade her for looser sanctions or guaranteed impunity for war crimes. (Photo of Asma al-Assad courtesy of Ricardo Stuckert/ABR)

Bashar al-Assad has been reticent about his plans for the first lady, but sources say he would be willing to trade her for looser sanctions or guaranteed impunity for war crimes. (Photo of Asma al-Assad courtesy of Ricardo Stuckert/ABR)

While presidents Putin, Obama and Bashar al-Assad have come to a tenuous agreement about the seizure of Syria’s chemical weapons, the three men are still wrangling over who gets to keep Syria’s first lady.

Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of Bashar al-Assad, has been conspicuously absent from public life during the 30-month civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed. The Syrian president’s decision to keep Asma hidden in a secret vault deep in the Presidential Palace suggests he is fearful that rebel groups in Damascus could breach palace walls and steal her.

President Obama has voiced his interest in Asma through the State Department, which has been in heated discussions with Russian officials about the Syrian conflict.

“We will not take the threat of a strike against Syria off the table,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a speech last week. “Assad must give up his chemical arsenal. He must cease slaughtering innocent civilians. And he must send Asma al-Assad to the United States where she can spend a week with President Obama at my quiet getaway in Cape Cod. I already gave him the keys.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin, not one to appear effete, has also stated on many occasions that should Asma al-Assad be put on the bargaining table, he would do everything “in the interest of international stability” to welcome her as a guest at the Kremlin where the temperature in her state room would make her believe she’s “sunbathing topless on a 100-meter luxury yacht in the Mediterranean.” Putin added that she could go bear-riding with him.

Bashar al-Assad has not spoken about his intentions for the first lady, but his aides have indicated he would be willing to hand her over in exchange for guaranteed impunity by the international community for what are being called war crimes.

This is a photo from a 2011 Vogue article that likened the first lady to a "rose in the desert." Even at that time, male leaders of the world showed interest in plucking Asma al-Assad from her dry environs.

This is a photo from a 2011 Vogue article that likened the first lady to a “rose in the desert.” Even at that time, male leaders of the world showed interest in plucking Asma al-Assad from her dry environs.

Further complicating the situation is French president François Hollande, who is also chiming in, saying that that former first lady of France Carla Bruni left some “très, très sexy” lingerie in The Élysée Palace. Hollande has said in press releases that the lingerie would certainly fit Asma al-Assad.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hopes for a peaceful outcome. He added that if the Syrian conflict continues to escalate, Asma al-Assad will be encouraged to attend a U.N. summit in New York where she would have diplomatic immunity — as long as she let everyone run their hands through her hair.