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US Department Of State Cuts Off Funding For Syria’s White Helmets

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US Department Of State Cuts Off Funding For Syria's White Helmets

Illustrative image: Netflix

The US State Department freezed financing the White Helmets, which had been working in war-torn Syria, the US TV channel CBS reported on May 3.

According to CBS, the US government accounted for about a third of the overall funding of White Helmets. CBS stressed that “the US State Department said the support is ‘under active review,’” adding that the organization had not been receiving financial funds from Washington for several weeks already.

The leader of White Helmets Raed Saleh stated that there had been no signs of stopping the financing two months ago during the visit of the organization’s members to the US, CBS reported.

“Our meetings in March were very positive. There were even remarks from senior officials about long-term commitments even into 2020,” Saleh said.

“There were no suggestions whatsoever about stopping support.”

“Ultimately, this will negatively impact the humanitarian workers ability to save lives,” claimed the White Helmets official quoted by CBS.

CBS reported that the internal State Department document had said that its Near East Bureau had needed confirmation from the administration to green light funding for the White Helmets in Syria by April 15 or the department would initiate “shut-down procedures on a rolling basis.”  CBS stated that it had inquired, which programs had been still receiving funding and the date of its freezing, but the US State Department did not respond.

The fact over the freezing of the White Helmets seems to be interesting as this organization was one of the first to make allegations that there was a chemical weapon attack carried out by the Syrian government in Douma on April 7. Russia dismissed that as fake news. On April 9, the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides examined Douma to find no traces of chemical weapons.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited two sites in Douma on April 21 and 25 collecting samples there. The results haven’t been provided yet.

The White Helmets, formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, is a group that declares its stuff about 3,000 volunteer rescuers and affirms it that have saved thousands of lives since the Syrian civil war began. The claim that the White Helmets is just a neutral entity in Syria raises doubts even in the US society.

The reduction of the White Helmets funding indicates that the US government understands that the organization is losing its credibility among international audience. It is also possible that the US decided to punish the White Helmets, by reducing of funding, for a low level of organizational and information support of operations around so-called “chemical attack in Douma”.

Operations that were executed unprofessionally led to the fact that Moscow got on hands trumps proving the staged character of the chemical attack in Douma.

For example, on April 26. Moscow’s delegation to the OPCW and witnesses of the supposed chemical attack in Douma held a press briefing in Hague to debunk accusations against Syrian government. Hassan Diab, a Syrian boy filmed by the White Helmets for their Douma chemical attack video was also there. The boy and his family revealed the absence of the attack and that they had staged in the fake video for food. Washington, once again, turned out to be a side that lost, at least at media scene.

One more reason of the changes in the funding is the reduction of territory under the militants control in Syria. The anti-government forces lose military and political advantages as the Syrian governmental troops gain more success in the war. So, the White Helmets activity may become almost useless in the region.

As to the issue of the White Helmets funding, on May 3, the US journalist Benjamin Swann detailed the timeline of the White Helmets history organization in the program Reality Check:

“Follow the money and you will find numerous ties to government funding from not only the U.S., but the U.K., the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.”

According to the Swann report, the White Helmets formed in “late 2012- early 2013” as self-organized groups. As they need training a former British army officer named James Le Mesurier developed a program for Syrians that included trauma care, command and control and crisis management courses. He was able to fund this training program through Mayday Rescue, his Netherlands-based non-profit funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments.

In December 2013, the UK-based PR machine backing the White Helmets was established. It was called the Voices Project, set up as a private limited company for public relations and communications activities. The first listed director on the articles of incorporation was Jeremy Heimans, the co-founder and chief executive officer of the global PR platform “Purpose” and a co-founder of controversial online activist network “Avaaz”.

By March 2014, the Voices Project set up the Syria Campaign non-governmental organization (NGO) as “a human rights organization that supports Syria’s heroes in their struggle for freedom and democracy.”

In October 2014, a conference of these teams came together to establish the Syrian Civil Defense as an official, national organization. They then became known as the White Helmets.

The doubtful news fabricated by the White Helmets raise questions in the US community and even in the US government.  As more failures could be expected from the White Helmets activity, it makes clear the measures of holding it back.

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