BEIRUT, Lebanon – As Syrians line up here at their embassy on a second day to vote for the next Syrian president, a Virginia state lawmaker is praising Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for “rescuing” Christians in his country and fighting jihadists affiliated with al-Qaida.
“I write to thank the Syrian Arab Army for its heroic rescue of Christians in the Qalamoun Mountain Range,” Virginia state Sen. Richard Black, R-Loudon, wrote in a letter to Assad. “I am especially grateful for the spectacular victory in Yabroud.”
Black’s two-page letter was posted on Assad’s official Facebook page.
Black is a former military lawyer with a background in Middle East matters.
The presidential election in Syria is scheduled for June 3, but two days of voting were held in Lebanon for Syrian expatriates. This observer saw throngs of voters clogging up the main road leading out of Beirut, making it almost impassable for traffic.
Throughout the neighborhoods in south Beirut, pro-Assad demonstrators marched behind trucks with loudspeakers chanting support for the Syrian president while waving the Syrian and Hezbollah flags.
The Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite resistance group, Hezbollah, has sent fighters to assist the Syrian military and reportedly has lost nearly a thousand fighters to date.
Black said Assad was following in the footsteps of his father, the late Hafez al-Assad, by allowing Christians and Jews to worship freely.
“You have followed the practice of your father by treating with respect all Christians and the small community of Jews in Damascus,” Black said. “You defended their churches and the Jewish synagogue, and you have permitted them to worship freely according to their beliefs. I am grateful for that.”
Black confirmed to the Washington Post he believes Syria is better off under Assad.
“If we were to topple President Assad, then Syria would be taken over by al-Qaida’s allies,” Black said.
“I don’t need to debate anyone over whether he’s a great man or not, but to me, the decision is a very clear decision between al-Qaida and President Assad,” the lawmaker said. “Now, President Assad and his father before him have maintained peace with Israel for 40 years.”
Israel, however, has joined with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in seeking Assad’s ouster, due to the Syrian president, who is a Shiite Alawite, being allied with Shiite Iran. Israel and the U.S. believe Iran’s nuclear program is not for peaceful purposes and poses a threat to the Jewish state.
Iran insists its program is only for generating power.
“Whatever a person’s view is of President Assad, he certainly has never exhibited the savagery of these jihadist groups fighting against him,” Black said.
Black lent support to Assad’s government after the deadly Aug. 21, 2013, poison-gas attack outside Syria’s capital, Damascus. While Westerners generally blamed the government for the attack, Black said at the time that there was no motive for the Assad government to use toxic gases.
Indeed, U.S. intelligence sources have told WND that the sarin attack could not have been committed by the government, due to extensive monitoring of Syrian military forces at the time.
The sources said there was classified evidence that sarin produced in the Sunni stronghold of Iraq had been shipped to Turkey, distributed to al-Qaida’s affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra and used not only in that attack but in March 2013 attack in the Syrian city of Homs.
Rebels comprised of ‘vicious war criminals’
In addition to expressing support for Assad’s government, Black has made statements on his website in opposition to any U.S. military intervention in Syria.
Now, the Obama administration reportedly is considering sending advisers into Syria to provide training for the “moderate elements” of the Syrian opposition. The U.S. backs the Supreme Military Council, but the opposition generally has been taken over by Sunni Islamic jihadist fighters from various factions that are more closely aligned with al-Qaida.
In his letter, Black said that the war in Syria has largely been fought by “vicious war criminals linked to al-Qaida.”
“Groups like al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant routinely commit war crimes as a matter of official policy,” Black wrote.
“Clearly, the Syrian people have grown weary of seeing foreign mercenaries enter their land to fight against them,” he said. “Your people suffered the criminal acts committed by those jihadists, who came to rape and murder innocent Syrians. Now, even some in the Western media are reporting that the rebels have lost the war – that their cause has grown hopeless.
“Yet to this day, few Americans realize that the rebels in Syria are dominated by our arch-enemy, al-Qaida,” he said. “They do not know that your enemies have sworn allegiance to the same organizations that, on September 11, 2001, crashed jetliners into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, killing over 3,000 innocent Americans. Today, al-Qaida-linked fighters use suicide bombs to murder helpless women and children in your country, just as they slaughtered helpless civilians here.”
Black said that he couldn’t explain how Americans had been “tricked” into supporting the jihadists. He said that “many” U.S. officials disagree with equipping and training the jihadists “who penetrate your borders from the Kingdom of Jordan and through Turkey.”
The U.S. has deployed an element of the Central Intelligence Agency which has been in Jordan for more than a year, training and equipping opposition fighters who then make their way into Syria through Turkey.
The Obama administration now is considering sending advisers into Syria to train and equip elements of the Syrian opposition.
“I pray that the Syrian armed forces will continue to exhibit extraordinary gallantry in the war against terrorist,” Black’s letter concluded. “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.”