Expertise in foreign affairs isn’t typically an on-the-job requirement for state legislators in the U.S. But that didn’t stop Republican State Senator Richard Black of Virginia from doing some freelance dabbling in international diplomacy. Black decided to dip his toe in the bloody conflict in Syria by taking the time to, of all things, pen a thank you letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"I write to thank the Syrian Arab Army for its heroic rescue of Christians in the Qalamoun Mountain Range," Black begins in his letter of support to the Syrian president. Black goes on to give thanks for the regime’s treatment of the country’s Christian minority and deploring the al-Qaeda infiltrated opposition fighters. “The worst possible outcome would be for the rebels to seize the capital and raise the dreaded black flag of al-Qaeda over Damascus,” the letter continues.
I pray that your army will drive the jihadists from Syria, so that Syrians of all faiths may live together in peace. Until then, I pray that the Syrian armed forces will continue to exhibit extraordinary gallantry in the war against terrorists. Please convey my personal thanks to the Syrian Arab Army and Air Force for protecting all patriotic Syrians, including the religious minorities who face death at the hands of the foreign jihadists.
If you want to check out more of the letter, head over to BuzzFeed for the full text. Media outlets have confirmed the letter was, in fact, sent by Black and it was apparently received as it’s now posted on Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad’s Facebook page.
The Washington Post points out that Black’s thank you letter doesn’t exactly jibe with U.S. policy. “In May , the United States imposed sanctions against the Assad regime; by August, President Obama called for Assad to step down,” the Post writes. “Earlier this month, Obama and National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with members of the Syrian opposition to offer support.”
Here’s more context from the Post:
Over the course of the conflict, more than 100,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. (The Britain-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights this month announced that it had documented more than 162,000 deaths.) The death toll includes more than 1,400 killed in an August 2013 chemical weapons attack the United States government attributes to the Assad regime.
As Liz Sly reported in March, the Syrian opposition is more fragmented than Black suggests. Al-Qaeda has a presence in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra, but repudiated the group ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The United States backs the Supreme Military Council, which has itself splintered into two competing groups.