Va. senator travels to Syria, shakes hands with Bashar al-Assad

Posted on Mar 10 2017 - 10:29am by Igor Rodrigues Ferreira

RICHMOND — As a veteran baby-kisser, Virginia Sen. Richard H. Black is not any stranger to the grip-and-grin. But this turned into something terrific: a handshake with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A photo of their come across in Damascus on Thursday zipped round the arena via Twitter, the smiling, silver-haired country senator greedy the hand of a person the White house calls a brutal dictator.

On the identical time, a sequence of airstrikes became being unleashed on insurrection-managed regions of Aleppo, Syria’s biggest town, destroying a health center run via international resource groups and killing as a minimum 60 people, inclusive of one among Aleppo’s ultimate pediatricians. Secretary of kingdom John F. Kerry stated Thursday that he became “outraged” with the aid of the assaults.

The photograph of Black, 71, shaking palms with Assad brought about outrage from a few people however reward from others who, like Black, see Assad as a protector of Syrian Christians. It also triggered knowing head shakes and chuckles in Richmond, where the outspoken Loudoun County Republican has a popularity for going all out for causes he champions.

“Dick Black, I like him, but once in a while Dick is prepared to take on the arena,” stated former country senator Ralph ok. Smith, a GOP ally from Roanoke. Smith compared Black to every other pal and Virginian, the past due Rev. Jerry Falwell, and said Black’s friends can relate to the televangelist’s devoted, however now and then exasperated wife.

“She was the maximum supportive spouse within the world, however from time to time she simply desired to mention, ‘Jerry, shut up!’ ”

Syrian information media stated the meeting among Assad and Black on Thursday, one day after it disclosed that the lawmaker changed into visiting the us of a. Black confirmed his visit Wednesday via textual content message but did not reply to messages Thursday about his reported meeting with Assad.

Mark Toner, a country department spokesman, said that Black is “entitled to his perspectives, however they do no longer mirror this management’s policy on Syria.”

Black declined Wednesday to say who turned into deciding to buy his trip but stated he might discuss it upon his return. Jeff Ryer, a spokesman for the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus, said no tax dollars have been used or looked for the trip.

Misidentifying Black as a U.S. senator, Syria on-line mentioned: “President Bashar al-Assad obtained on Thursday US Senator Richard Black and discussed with him the situation in Syria and the overseas-backed terrorism warfare waged against it.”

“The President highlighted during the dialogue that the terrorist assaults that have hit numerous regions within the global proof that terrorism is aware of no borders,” the news web page said. “For his part, the usa Senator stated it’s far important that the yank humans get acquainted with the reality of what is occurring in Syria faraway from the disinformation practiced via some parties at the us administration. Black highlighted the necessity of placing efforts to boost the financial sanctions imposed on Syria which constitute a flagrant violation of the global laws.”

Currently, the country branch warns U.S. citizens “towards all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens closing in Syria depart right away.”

“But, we can not save your people from touring there, and it is not illegal to travel to Syria,” said Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, a state branch spokeswoman.

The White residence declined to comment on Black’s trip however a management professional counseled that the senator’s help for Assad stemmed from lack of knowledge.

“Assad has, again and again, proven himself to be a brutal dictator responsible for the deaths of his personal countrymen, consisting of Muslims and Christians,” stated the authentic, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to talk about diplomatic topics. “He has shown no respect for human lifestyles, and anybody who suggests otherwise is blind to the depths of his brutality.”

[Outspoken Va. senator travels to Syria]

Black is one of the most conservative participants of the Virginia general assembly. He drew interest years ago for wondering the notion of spousal rape and for sending tiny pink plastic models of fetuses to fellow legislators beforehand of a vote on an abortion invoice. More lately, he has labored with women’s advocates to correctly push legal guidelines related to rape. But he ignited controversy again this year by using equating Pulitzer Prize-prevailing novelist Toni Morrison’s “liked” to “moral sewage,” a remark he made in assist of a failed invoice to require schools to inform parents of sexual content in course material and allow them to “opt out” their kids.

A Vietnam veteran and former Pentagon lawyer who turned into chief of the U.S. military’s criminal regulation department whilst stationed in Germany inside the 1980s, Black has now and then used his perch in kingdom politics as a soapbox for global affairs. He drew interest a year in the past by means of sending a letter to Assad, thanking him for protecting Christians. The Syrian president posted the letter on his fb web page.

The gesture landed Black on the Islamic state’s enemies listing — a distinction he touted in his re-election campaign remaining 12 months.

[Virginia state senator named on ISIS ‘enemies’ list]

The image of the handshake circulated within the states via a tweet from Zaid Benjamin. He is a Washington-primarily based reporter for Radio Sawa, a U.S. authorities-funded, Arab-language radio undertaking similar to Radio free Europe. News of the meeting infuriated Assad critics, such as M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the yank Islamic forum for Democracy.
“Shame on country Sen Richard Black (R-VA)!” Jasser wrote on fb. “Comply with the cash. He’s very likely to be at the ­Assadist-Putin-Khameini payroll. The only issue greater grotesque than the actual battle criminals like Assadists or Khomeinists or ISIS is a so known as American navy veteran with the sector’s information and freedom at his disposal who chooses to stump for genocidal tyranny.”

Virginia Democrats accused Black of having “dangerously clueless views on foreign policy.”

Republicans inside the kingdom were by and large holding their tongues, but a few betrayed leisure. “I can’t comment on this. But I need to. so much,” Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) wrote as he retweeted the handshake photograph.

Originally posted 2016-05-01 16:34:02.