Perhaps we are about to witness the final chapter to the controversial White Helmets saga?
As we've detailed many times before both the West and the group's leadership have long claimed it's nothing but a humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to rescuing Syrian's in the midst of war; however, new reports reveal the US and UK are mulling plans to evacuate the group's members who, far from being a "neutral" NGO, are funded by Western governments which have simultaneously sought the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
US government officials say White Helmets members are in "imminent danger" and face the threat of assassination as pro-government forces advance deeper into southwest Syria.
CNN reports the following based on diplomatic sources:
The fate of some 1,000 volunteers and their family members, and the need to plan a possible evacuation for them, has become a focus of discussions of several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, France and Canada, according to a diplomatic source familiar with the subject and two administration officials.
And CNN reports further that President Trump broached the subject at the NATO summit in Brussels last week:
In the plans under discussion, the volunteer rescue workers, who are officially named the Syrian Civil Defense, would be resettled in several countries; two diplomatic sources mentioned the possibility of resettling some of the group in Canada and the United Kingdom, while another two sources said Germany is expected to take some rescuers.
President Donald Trump discussed the possible need to evacuate members of the group during his meetings at the NATO summit last week, a source confirmed. There were several conversations between the US and UK about the issue during the summit, the source said, adding that Western delegations have convinced the US to help lobby both Israel and Jordan to find escape routes for besieged rescuers.
Among the consistent criticisms leveled at the group has been that its rescuers only operate in al-Qaeda and anti-Assad insurgent held territory — this while being caught on film multiple times bearing arms alongside insurgents and even assisting in al-Qaeda conducted field executions — and the group has received large sums from Western governments even while presenting itself as a homegrown "first-responder" organization.
Why is UK funding White Helmets who are allied to al-Qaeda in Syria?— the Lemniscat (@theLemniscat) May 13, 2018
Saudi terrorist, Muhaysni, who was involved in the execution of 65 Syrian soldiers in Abu al-Duhar airbase, calls Theresa May's White Helmets "the mujahideen of the civil defense"https://t.co/NT9cRz0Qwp pic.twitter.com/hNrJsi6aDX
Yet last June this narrative was again exposed as obviously false as President Trump authorized new funding for the White Helmets to the initial tune of $6.6 million to continue what US officials call "the vital, life-saving operations of the Syrian Civil Defense, more commonly known as the White Helmets."
Soon after the State Department announced the formal resumption of funding, the Syrian Army began a successful offensive to take back Syria's southwest provinces with the help of Russian fighter jets. There's also been a significant uptick in Russian air strikes on al-Qaeda held Idlib province in recent months, which analysts bill as the last significant "opposition-held" territory in the war ravaged country.
Concerning the potential evacuation of White Helmets members, US planners see Russia as a possible obstacle, according to CNN:
Western countries hope to find a way to help the group leave Syria without Russia's aid, the diplomatic source said. They are looking at various possibilities for ground evacuation, but all of them are difficult and negotiations are at a sensitive stage, the source said.
And CBS reports the following statement issued by Trump administration officials:
"We are concerned about the humanitarian situation in the southwest since the Syrian regime and Russia violated the ceasefire,"National Security Council spokesperson Garrett Marquis said in a statement to CBS News' Margaret Brennan."This includes the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the fighting. Among them are many who fear regime reprisals, including specific groups, such as the White Helmets. We are pushing for Russia and the regime to allow international aid convoys to deliver badly needed assistance to the civilians in the Southwest."
Russian officials have accused the White Helmets of helping al-Qaeda groups stage "chemical attack provocations" — such as the latest April 7th suspected chemical attack in Douma — which Western countries and international media as a matter of course blame on the Assad government.
While evacuation plans are being discussed, it is also possible that the fate of the White Helmets could factor into reported ongoing negotiations between world powers to end the Syrian proxy war.
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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 over five years.