WikiLeaks has begun publishing more than 2 million emails from Syrian political figures that it says will shed light on the regime’s crackdown on dissent and embarrass Syria’s opponents.
The emails date back to 2006 but also cover the past 16 months, in which thousands have been killed in a bloody crackdown by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
The whistleblowing website says the files will give an insight into how the Assad government operates, and also reveal Western countries and businesses which continue to support Syria.
“They also reveal how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another,” the organisation said.
WikiLeaks says the emails came from Syrian ministries including foreign affairs, finance and presidential affairs.
Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the material is embarrassing to Syria, as well as to Syria’s opponents.
“It helps us not merely to criticise one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts,” he said in a statement.
“It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it.”
Altogether, the site says it will publish 2,434,899 emails from 680 domains, which it is “statistically confident” are accurate and authentic.
It says there are 678,752 different email addresses involved, and 1,082,447 different recipients.
There are around 400,000 emails in Arabic but also 68,000 emails in Russian.
WikiLeaks says the first files reveal that Italian defence giant Finmeccanica has provided communications equipment to the Syrian regime since the unrest began.
WikiLeaks will not comment on the rest of the material until stories derived from the files are published.
It is not the first time Syrian emails have been leaked.
In March, Britain’s Guardian newspaper published emails which claimed Mr Assad’s wife Asma was spending tens of thousands of pounds on jewellery and fancy furniture amid the bloodshed.
The Syria files are WikiLeaks’ first major publication since it began disclosing internal emails from the US-based intelligence firm Stratfor in February.
WikiLeaks was forced to suspend many of its publishing operations last October after Visa, MasterCard and PayPal refused to continue processing donations to the whistleblowing website.
WikiLeaks’ publication comes amid continued wrangling between world powers about how the bloody conflict in Syria should be tackled.
The revolt, which started with peaceful pro-democracy protests, has turned into a something approaching a civil war as the government’s crackdown triggered an armed uprising.
Rights groups as many as 16,500 people have been killed in the 16-month uprising, while Mr Assad blames the deaths on “terrorist gangs”.
Meanwhile, Mr Assange remains currently holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London seeking political asylum.
He is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning on sex abuse allegations.
He denies the allegations, which he says are politically motivated.
WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing a flood of classified information and diplomatic cables in 2010, and Mr Assange says America wants to try him for leaking the documents.
Mr Assange fears that once he is in Sweden, the US will seek his extradition.
Even if he is granted asylum in Ecuador, British police say they will arrest him for being in breach of his bail conditions as soon as he sets foot outside the embassy.
Mr Assange was on $315,000 bail, which included the condition he spend nights at home.