Washington, D.C. – In what is sure to be a surprise to President Trump’s base, who generally don’t support further entrenchment in Syria — but not entirely unexpected — the U.S. State Department on Thursday announced that the president had authorized $6.6 million in new funding for the controversial White Helmets group.
A State Department spokeswoman announced in a press release that President Trump had authorized $6.6 million to continue what it calls “the vital, life-saving operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, more commonly known as the White Helmets.”
“The United States Government strongly supports the White Helmets who have saved more than 100,000 lives since the conflict began including victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks,” the press release states.
The full statement reads:
The President has authorized the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of State to release approximately $6.6 million for the continuation of the vital, life-saving operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, more commonly known as the White Helmets, and the UN’s International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM).
The United States Government strongly supports the White Helmets who have saved more than 100,000 lives since the conflict began, including victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks. These heroic first responders have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and continue to be deliberately targeted by the Syrian regime and Russian airstrikes. Since 2013, more than 230 of these brave volunteers have been killed while working to save innocent Syrian civilians.
The IIIM’s work is vital to assisting the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under international law committed in Syria since March 2011. Their mandate, collecting and analyzing evidence of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses will help ensure those responsible for these crimes are ultimately held accountable.
The news will come as a surprise to many, as CBS News reported in early May that the White Helmets had reportedly stopped receiving funds from the US government, and that the group, formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, had not received funds from the US weeks. At the time, the halt in funding was thought to be part of a strategic decision by Trump to freeze a reported $200 million in funding for Syrian recovery.
“We are actively reviewing our current Syria assistance programs at the President’s request, including U.S. support for the White Helmets,” a State Department official, who also noted that the United States has provided more than $33 million to the White Helmets since 2013, told CNN at the time.
“The US jointly supports the White Helmets with other donors and we expect their operations to continue as a result of additional multilateral donations. The President has been clear that partners and allies should assume a larger role in stabilizing Syria,” said the official.
CBS News explained at the time that “an internal State Department document said that its Near East Bureau needed confirmation from the administration to green light funding for the White Helmets in Syria by April 15th or the department would initiate ‘shut-down procedures on a rolling basis.’”
Despite the contentions by the State Department, it is indisputable fact that the group only operates within al-Qaeda and anti-Assad rebel held territory. This distinction has led critics of the group to claim that the White Helmets effectively act as “first responders” for terrorist groups — and are not “Syrian Civil Defense” as they purport to be to western audiences.
Additionally, the White Helmets are not even a native Syrian organization. Founded in 2013 by James Le Mesurier, a former British military intelligence officer and private security specialist, the group is largely funded by the U.S. and UK governments.
In contrast to the popularized characterization of the White Helmets as heroic saviors, independent investigative reporting has described the group as less of a humanitarian construct and more of a form of propaganda/intelligence operation deployed as a Syrian Civil Defense, but which operates only in rebel-held areas, as a news means of employing western soft power in the form of information warfare meant to forward a regime change operation.
Ironically, just days ago, the Russian Ministry of Defense warned that it has credible intelligence that United States special forces are assisting the western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) in preparation of an orchestrated “chemical attack provocation” involving chlorine gas to be staged in the Deir ez-Zor province in an effort to precipitate another round of U.S.-led strikes against Assad government forces and facilities meant to bolster a planned FSA offensive on eastern bank of the Euphrates River.
“Our intelligence confirmed by three independent Syrian sources says that commanders of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’, backed by the American Special Forces operators, are preparing a serious provocation involving chemical warfare agents in Deir ez-Zor province,” Russian Ministry of Defense Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement released on Monday.
It’s important to remember that the White Helmets were the sole organization to present alleged evidence used to blame Assad for a chemical attack on April 7 in the suburb of Douma, which resulted in a U.S.-backed western attack on Syrian government forces and territory. Reporting on the ground from Douma subsequently debunked the veracity of the claimed “chemical attack,” with alleged victims testifying in front of the OPWC that they had not suffered any chemical weapons attack.
Incidentally, prior to the alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7th, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff of Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, warned on March 13 that Syrian rebels were preparing to use chemical weapons— to be blamed on the Syrian government— as a justification for U.S. strikes on Damascus.
To give some context, Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, in 2016, was blocked entrance into the United States by the U.S. State Department after being invited to receive in NYC an award by USAID and NGOs that the US government finances. Saleh was reportedly barred entry into the U.S., due to having been placed on the no-fly list by the FBI as a known terrorist.
Even Pink Floyd’s great and political activist, Roger Waters, during a recent solo concert in Barcelona, called the White Helmets a “fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists.”
“The White Helmets is a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists,” Waters said. “That’s my belief… If we were to listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to start dropping bombs on people in Syria. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions for us as human beings.”
Despite the Trump administration giving the White Helmets the nod of legitimacy, there is clearly more than meets the eye to the group once you begin to dig beneath the veneer of propaganda fed to the public. The weaponization of purported humanitarian organizations and NGOs is clearly happening. Stay vigilant Free Thinkers!