Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s friends have dwindled since 2011, when his country erupted into civil war, but he hasn’t lost Virginia state senator Richard Black of Loudoun County, who recently sent a lengthy letter of appreciation of the dictator’s record in the bloody, three-year-old conflict.
“I write to thank the Syrian Arab Army for its heroic rescue of Christians in the Qalamoun Mountain Range,” Black begins, referring to a skirmish northeast of the Syrian capital of Damascus. Black’s letter—sent April 1 but surfacing Monday when the Assad regime’s Facebook page posted an image of it—focuses mostly on his assessment of the Syrian opposition, which he believes to be composed predominantly of Islamist terrorist fighters. “Yet to this day,” Black writes, “few Americans realize that the rebels in Syria are dominated by our arch-enemy, al-Qaeda.”
Black has long criticized the Syrian rebel movement, maintaining in an open letter to House Speaker John Boehner last year that some elements opposing Assad have raped Christian women and have been caught on video practicing cannibalism.
Since the uprising started in 2011, more than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to the United Nations, including more than 1,400 people who died in a chemical weapons attack the United States says was carried out by the Assad regime last August. (Some estimates go as high as 162,000.)
Black’s admiration of Assad is apparently motivated by his concerns for the Christian and Jewish minorities in Syria. “You have followed the practice of your father by treating with respect all Christians and the small community of Jews in Damascus,” he writes. “You defended their churches and the Jewish synagogue, and you have permitted them to worship freely to their beliefs. I am grateful for that.”
Last weekend, Syrian forces under Assad’s command demolished the country’s oldest synagogue, a 400-year-old temple that housed many ancient Jewish artifacts.
Black could not be reached comment on the letter or the destruction of the synagogue.