Republican State Senator Richard Black of Virginia has met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and claimed to have knowledge of an alleged Western plot to stage a chemical weapons attack there as a pretext for military action.
Black, an Army veteran, traveled to Syria on Wednesday to express his support for the government's war against insurgents and jihadis who rose up in a 2011 rebellion backed by the West, Turkey and Gulf Arab states. The US and its allies have accused Assad of war crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, but the Syrian leader and his Russian and Iranian allies have alleged that such incidents were "false flag" plots conjured up to justify foreign intervention.
As the Syrian military prepares for a major showdown with the final Islamist-held province of Idlib, US officials have claimed that Assad may order the use of restricted poison gas, while Russia has claimed that the UK was working with local militants in an apparent attempt to stage such an incident. In an interview with regional media the following day, Black sided with the pro-Syrian government camp.
"We knew about four weeks ago that British intelligence was planning to work to stage a false flag chemical attack to pretend that it was the fault of Syria and to blame it on Syria and then to come to the rescue of Al-Qaeda," Black told Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese outlet that is supportive of the Syrian government and its allies.
After arriving in Syria, Black met with Assad himself Wednesday for the second time. The legislator first met the Syrian leader in 2016, when a Russian intervention the year prior had just begun to turn the tides of war in favor of Syria's beleaguered armed forces, which held only a western section of the country at the time. Black noted to Al Mayadeen that shortly after his first visit, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) took over the ancient city of Palmyra.
In their latest meeting, however, "President Assad emphasized that the pursuit of threats, sanctions and the support of terrorism are the key features of the US role, noting that switching this role to peaceful industry rather than continuing to ignite wars and destabilize countries is more beneficial to America and its people," according to the Syrian presidency's Twitter account.
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