The US State Department, the largest funder of the White Helmets group in Syria, has frozen all funding to the organization indefinitely. Officials say the group is “under active review,” but provided no specifics on when this might be lifted.
White Helmets head Raed Saleh said this would have no impact, saying they “did not receive any direct funding from the US or any other country.” The key word in this statement is “direct,” as the State Department’s funding is funneled through contractors and other third parties.
Which means all told, the White Helmets actually get one-third of their funding from the US State Department. This is being frozen as part of a general Trump Administration freeze on Syrian “recovery efforts.”
The White Helmets are primarily a search and rescue group in certain rebel-held parts of Syria. The claims of not being funded by Western governments is an attempt to maintain the illusion of neutrality. This is important because the White Helmets are often used as a primary source for Western claims of Syrian war crimes.
While White Helmets leadership is downplaying the frozen funding, this may impact US influence over the group in advancing such narratives. This has been a recurring theme for the US involvement in Syria, as they heavily bankroll “allies” and quickly fall out of their good graces when the money dries up.