The group known as the White Helmets has reportedly stopped receiving funds from the US government, according to CBS News. The White Helmets, formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, have reportedly not received funds from the US in recent weeks, leaving the controversial group uncertain of how a “long-term or permanent halt” in funding would impact their future operations.
The cease in US funding for the White Helmets reportedly stems from President Trump’s decision in late March to freeze $200 million in U.S. recovery funding for Syria as part of a broader strategic overhaul. CBS News reported 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.’”
“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 Friday.
“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.
CNN reported that in a subsequent statement on Friday, Saleh said the group does not receive direct funding from the United States, but rather “from organizations and associations.”
“Our work hasn’t been disrupted and all the projects we are working on will not be halted,” he added, “and our volunteers are still operating on the ground.”
The US State Department hosted the White Helmets in March and praised the group for their work in Syria.
“Our meetings in March were very positive. There were even remarks from senior officials about long-term commitments even into 2020. There were no suggestions whatsoever about stopping support,” Raed Saleh, the group’s leader, told CBS News.
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 new means of employing western soft power in the form of information warfare meant to forward a regime change operation.
The White Helmets were founded in 2013 by James Le Mesurier, a former British military intelligence officer and private security specialist, and are largely funded by the U.S. and UK governments. The group was hosted by the US State Department less than two months ago and were lavished with praise.
CBS News reported that “U.S had accounted for about a third of the group’s overall funding,” but, “now they are not getting any U.S funding as the State Department says the support is ‘under active review.’”
“This is a very worrisome development,” said an official from the White Helmets. “Ultimately, this will negatively impact the humanitarian workers ability to save lives.”
Recently Pink Floyd great Roger Waters, during a recent solo concert in Barcelona, called out the White Helmets as 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.”
The group says they have received no formal notice from the US government but that the groups people in Syria report that they have not received funds for weeks. Despite a purported “emergency plan” to fund the groups work on the ground for a couple of months, representatives are concerned about a potential long-term or permanent freeze in assistance.
“If this is a long-term or permanent halt, it would have a serious impact on our ability to provide the same intensity and quality of services that we currently provide to civilians,” said Saleh.
Although the State Department has characterized the group as “selfless men,” going so far as to urge journalists to watch an Oscar-winning documentary about the group, in the video below Ben Swann provides critical analysis of the White Helmets, which reveals some penetrating truths.