In a somewhat surprising but not entirely unpredictable turn, President Trump has authorized new funding for the White Helmets which had previously been put on hold.
A State Department press release puts the initial funding figure at $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." Elsewhere on the State Department's website the group is referenced as "first responders" in Syria; however, it remains an indisputable fact that the group only operates in al-Qaeda and anti-Assad insurgent held territory.
The statement continues: "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."
In early May the Trump State Department froze funding to the controversial aid group which had provided the sole evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reportedly used chemical weapons on his own people in an April 7 attack on the city of Douma.
The prior funding freeze dealt a huge blow to the group's reputation, already long under fire after multiple videos emerged proving the White Helmets operate closely alongside know al-Qaeda terrorist groups, and have even participated in al-Qaeda execution videos typically in a support role of disposing the bodies.
As CBS News reported at the time:
Having not received U.S. funding in recent weeks, White Helmets are questioning what this means for the future. They have received no formal declaration from the U.S. government that the monetary assistance has come to a full halt, but the group's people on the ground in Syria report that their funds have been cut off.
Much speculation abounded at the time over whether the freeze was a bureaucratic error in paperwork, or whether it was the result of the White House adopting a different view of the scandal-laden group.
After all in 2016 the US State Department had blocked entrance into the United States by Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, and refused to say why. Saleh had been invited to receive in NYC an award by USAID and NGOs that the US government finances, but he was barred at the airport, apparently because the FBI had placed him onto its no-fly list as a known terrorist.
For this reason many analysts who have been critical of the group's known terror ties and penchant for "enhancing" and possibly staging videos were hopeful that Trump had changed his tune concerning the group. In the summer of 2017 Trump announced he was shutting down the CIA covert program to aid rebels in Syria after he saw a shocking video of CIA-supported fighters decapitating a young boy in Aleppo.
In an irony which will surely be lost on all mainstream pundits, the very group featured in the appalling beheading video which reportedly caused Trump to nix the CIA program, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, has been filmed in multiple UK Channel 4 broadcasts working closely with the White Helmets.
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Concerning last April's alleged Assad chemical attack, the evidence provided by the White Helmets was used by the West to justify several airstrikes on Syrian scientific and military facilities throughout April - the first one conducted on Syria's T4 airbase by Israel 48 hours after the White Helmets' report. Many Douma residents, meanwhile - including Hospital personnel, say the chemical attack never happened.
The White Helmets are a 3,000 member NGO formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense. Established in "late 2012 - early 2013" after a group of 20 Syrians were trained and organized by former British army officer James Le Mesurier. The group then received funding from Le Mesurier's Netherlands-based non-profit group, Mayday Rescue - which is in turn funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments.
The US has in the past provided at least $32 million to the group - around 1/3 of their total funding - through a USAID scheme orchestrated by the Obama State Department and funneled to the White Helmets using a Washington D.C. contractor participating in USAID's Syria regional program, Chemonics.
According to their website, the White Helmets have been directly funded by Mayday Rescue, and a company called Chemonics, since 2014.
Yet there’s evidence that both of those organizations started supporting the White Helmets back in early 2013, right around the time the White Helmets claim to have formed as self-organized groups.
Mayday Rescue, as we said, is funded by the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. And Chemonics?
They are a Washington, D.C. based contractor that was awarded $128.5 million in January 2013 to support “a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” as part of USAID’s Syria regional program. At least $32 million has been given directly to the White Helmets as of February 2018. -TruthInMedia
So the US, Dutch, British, Danish and German governments have been funding the White Helmets, a non-governmental organization, through proxies for around five years.
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Meanwhile Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov warned early this week that US-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces are planning a "serious provocation" aimed at justifying a new round of Western coalition missile attacks against Syrian government bases and facilities.
Russia says it is aware of the existence of a video which will be used to "prove" an Assad chemical attack, similar to the videos which have emerged in past events.
Konashenkov, in a statement carried by Russian state-run TASS and subsequently featured in a One America News report, said "According to the information confirmed through three independent channels in Syria, the command of the so-called ‘Free Syrian Army’ aided by the forces of the US special ops units are preparing a serious provocation involving chemical warfare agents in the Deir ez-Zor province."
Russia has in the past pointed the finger at the White Helmets from staging such "provocations".
"After being published in western media a staged video is set to initiate a missile strike on Syria’s state facilities by the US-led coalition and justify an offensive operation by militants against Syrian governmental forces on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River," he said, adding that Russia’s Defense Ministry warns that the use of such provocations for destabilization of the environment on the Syrian territory is unacceptable.
Perhaps today's announcement of the resumption of US funding for the White Helmets is merely the beginning of another major "event" which will justify more Western military intervention in Syria?