Richard Black, a Virginia state senator with no official role in U.S. foreign policy, has traveled to Syria, where he told government officials he will push for a stronger relationship between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the United States.
Syria's official news agency, which erroneously referred to Black as a U.S. senator, says he promised he "will be Syria's voice," and the Republican, who is also the co-chairman of Ted Cruz's campaign in Virginia, is expected to meet with Assad sometime during his trip. In 2014, he sent a praise-filled letter to Assad, which was posted on the Syrian leader's Facebook page, The Associated Press reports. He's also tweeted positive messages, saying Assad has protected Christians and must stay in power, otherwise "ISIS will secure Syria and march on Europe."
Virginia Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) told AP that Black's trip "doesn't surprise me one bit," adding that if a Democrat were meddling in Syria, Republicans "would be raising holy hell." At least 250,000 people have died in the country's bloody civil war, and Cruz has previously warned of what might happen if Assad's government is toppled. "Putting ISIS or Al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of yet another state in the Middle East is not benefiting our national security," he said.