AMSTERDAM — Amid continued concerns that the White Helmets are currently staging a “false flag” chemical weapons attack in Syria’s Idlib, the Netherlands has decided to halt funding for the controversial group due to the “inadequate supervision” of White Helmets members on-the-ground and the group’s “likely” links to Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations. Notably, the decision marks the first time that a government funding the White Helmets has openly criticized or raised concerns about the group. The group has received funding from several foreign governments since its founding, including the U.S., U.K., Dutch, Japanese, German and Qatari governments.
According to the Dutch publication de Volkskrant, the decision was made after the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok, and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Coordination Sigrid Kaag received a damning report from the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation. That report slammed the Netherland’s supervision of aid projects in opposition territory in Syria as extremely inadequate.
The report singled out the White Helmets specifically, stating that the supervision of White Helmet members within Syria was well below acceptable standards and further stated that funding given to the group by the Dutch government had likely fallen into the hands of extremist groups, such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. In total, the Netherlands has funded the White Helmets to the tune of €12.5 million ($14.5 million) since 2016.
Another group criticized in the report is Mayday Rescue, a White Helmets-linked “NGO” directed by former UK Military Intelligence officer turned mercenary James Le Mesurier, the very man who founded the White Helmets in Turkey in 2013. Much of the White Helmets finances, which amounted to over $123 million between 2014 and 2016, have been funneled to the group’s operatives through Mayday Rescue, though the U.S. company Chemonics also partially assumed this role beginning in 2016.
The Dutch government report sharply condemned Mayday’s poor oversight of the group, citing the fact that Mayday sought to spend no more than 0.9% of its budget on supervising how White Helmet funding is spent and what White Helmets operatives are actually doing on the ground in Syria. This led the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conclude that “there is a lack of independent supervision of the activities and results of the project.”
The report also criticized Mayday for the fact that it could not account for how much money destined for the White Helmets had been transferred to the Syrian border in cash and how much had entered the country via the hawala system. This uncertainty led Dutch officials to note that “systematic control of the money flow is missing” and, as a result, the funds are likely to have fallen “into the hands of armed groups” or have been used in illegal trade and black market transactions.
Furthermore, the report noted that the White Helmets are active in areas where “unacceptable” terrorist-linked armed factions are in control, making contact between the White Helmets and administrators who work with these terrorist groups “inevitable.”
A long history of questionable behavior
While the new report may make these concerns seem like sudden revelations, the White Helmets’ ties to terrorist groups in Syria have been noted for years in the independent media as well as by the governments of both Syria and Russia. In addition, many reporters have revealed evidence that the White Helmets are far from the humanitarian do-gooders they claim to be, given their tendency to doctor “search and rescue” footage, their role in executing civilians and their use of children – both dead and alive – as props for producing pro-intervention propaganda.
The decision of the Dutch government to defund the White Helmets notably coincides with warnings from Russia’s military presence in Syria that a “chemical weapons” justification for an imminent U.S. strike is likely to be forthcoming, as the controversial White Helmets group began filming mock chemical weapons attacks last Tuesday and have since filmed nine videos purporting to show civilians exposed to chlorine gas and then being “rescued” by the White Helmets.
Since their founding, the White Helmets have been instrumental in blaming the Syrian government for any and all chemical weapons attacks in Syria, acting as both witnesses and responders to events that were later proven to be the work of the armed opposition in Syria or have been staged.
Yet, the White Helmets may no longer be needed to justify foreign military intervention, especially given recent statements made by U.S. officials that they would attack Syrian government positions for “any attack” launched against Idlib province. While the Netherlands decision to cut off the funding of the White Helmets is likely welcome news to those who have long questioned the group’s motives, it seems that is may be another case of “too little, too late” for those wishing to see the now seven-year-long conflict in Syria come to an end.
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.