Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has posted on his Facebook page a letter from a Virginia state senator praising the Syrian army and offering encouragement in the government's three-year battle against rebel forces.
"I write to thank the Syrian Arab Army for its heroic rescue of Christians in the Qalamoun Mountain Range," the letter from Sen. Richard H. Black began, referring to a region that contains a Christian town recently retaken from rebels by Syrian forces.
The Loudoun Republican went on to express his gratitude to the Syrian forces for liberating Christians and others who have been held captive by "terrorists" for several years.
"It is obvious that the war in Syria has largely been fought by vicious war criminals linked to al-Qaeda," Mr. Black wrote, characterizing the rebels as "criminals" and accusing them of mass executions, beheadings and even cannibalism.
The letter was dated April 1 and printed on Virginia Senate letterhead. Its existence was first reported by The Washington Post, which authenticated the document.
Mr. Black is known as one of the state Senate's most conservative members. As a delegate, he once infamously irked colleagues by passing out plastic fetuses before a crucial abortion vote. In 1998, Mr. Black unsuccessfully pushed for a measure that would have required doctors to administer anesthesia to fetuses prior to later-term abortions and another that tried to effectively ban gay people from adopting children in Virginia.
In his letter, he went on to praise Mr. Assad for treating Christians with respect in the tradition of his father, longtime Syrian President Hafez al Assad.
His stance is at odds with the U.S. government's view of the Syrian government and Mr. Assad, whom President Obama just Wednesday morning described as a "dictator who bombs and starves his people" during remarks at West Point.
"I cannot explain how Americans, who suffered so grievously at the hands of al-Qaeda, were tricked into supporting the jihadists," Mr. Black said. "But I do know that many U.S. officials disagree with equipping and training the terrorists who penetrate your borders from the Kingdom of Jordan and through Turkey."
The senator concluded his letter by saying he would "pray that the Syrian armed forces will continue to exhibit extraordinary gallantry in the war against terrorists."
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