Recent news of the so-called “evacuation” of White Helmet forces from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic to Jordan with Israeli assistance has made international headlines. The story first reported by Reuters has now been confirmed both by Syria and Israel as real news, while both Asian and western media outlets have reiterated the authenticity of the story.
At the moment, both western outlets and Syrian outlets are spinning the story in order to maximise sympathy rather than to illustrate the objective outcome of recent events. For western mainstream media, the “evacuation” is both a sad and embarrassing moment when the “rescuers” they held up as heroic have had to run from a “dangerous regime” whose forces are advancing towards their enclave near the purple line which de-facto separates the occupied Golan Heights from the rest of Syria.
For Syrian media, the event is an outrage as it demonstrates further Israeli meddling on Syrian soil aimed at removing from the country, terrorists whom the government would like to bring to justice. That being said, it is supremely naive to have any hope that any wrongful party in the Syrian party will ever be brought to justice. Realistically, this is accepted in Damascus, Moscow, Washington and elsewhere.
However, the objective reality is that the withdrawal of the White Helmets from south-western Syria to Jordan and ultimately to Europe and North America represents the first official withdrawal of overtly western backed proxies since the beginning of the present Syria conflict in 2011. In order to understand the significance of this, one must understand the significance of who the White Helmets are and why the “evacuation” was actually a withdrawal.
Even western mainstream media outlets do not hide the fact that the White Helmets are the creation of a retired British soldier called James Le Mesurier and that the group’s funding comes primarily from the governments of the United States, France and United Kingdom as well as other trusts and so-called NGOs with clear links to the deep states of the aforementioned nations. The White Helmets’ agenda is to assist terror groups described by western governments as “moderate rebels” and produce propaganda videos pushing the historic western agenda in Syria. When one links this reality with the origin and funding of the group, it becomes clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the White Helmets are a de-facto western group, irrespective of the ethnic or national origin of its members. In war time, one is classed by what uniform one wears rather than other considerations that come into play in civilian life. As the White Helmet uniform is western, anyone wearing it is clearly part of the broader western alliance in Syria.
Therefore, while earlier reports of mysterious and largely unconfirmed withdrawals of Daesh fighters in eastern Syria via helicopter is significant, the fact that a blatantly and in many cases proudly western backed group of proxy fighters/propagandists like the White Helmets has been withdrawn from Syria means that the group’s masters in Washington, Paris and London realise that they’ve reached the end of the road in terms of accomplishing their initial objectives and that the proxy group has outlived its strategic usefulness.
Even more significant than the fact that this represents the first formal withdrawal of a western proxy force from Syria since the beginning of the conflict, is the fact that reports on all sides have indicated that rather than re-position the White Helmets of south-western Syria to another part of Syria, they are going to be entirely removed from the region. This is significant because it represents a shift in strategy from the US and its geopolitical dependants.
By fomenting a genuine withdrawal rather than a mere re-positioning, it is clear that in the wake of the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki, there has been an early stage agreement whereby both the opponents and partners of Damascus will withdraw from parts of western Syria in-line with Russia’s pre-Helsinki Summit wishes for a total withdrawal of all foreign troops in Syria at the soonest possible time.
The devil of course is in the details and at present the details are only implied, but suffice to say, based on unambiguous public statements from Russia’s special envoy to Syria, Moscow expects Iranian and Hezbollah fighters, soldiers and advisers to withdraw from western Syria as soon as possible, while now it seems that as part of the US and European end of the bargain, White Helmet proxies from the same region will also be withdrawn in light of the joint Russo-Israeli agreement wherein Tel Aviv agreed to passively facilitate the Syrian Arab Army’s retention of Syrian territory up to the 1967 green line, so long as Iran and Hezbollah are not involved in the operation.
In this sense, while both western and Syrian media are predictably playing equal and opposite sympathy cards, the far more significant aspect of the White Helmet withdrawal derives from the strategic implications. For the first time, it would appear that not only is the war winding down in terms of clarity regarding Syria restoring its most valuable pieces of territory from occupation, but now it would appear that in terms of foreign involvement – the war is also at long last, gradually and asymmetrically shifting from a military process to the political process that Russia has long advocated in the format of the Astana talks.
For those who have lingering doubts over whether the Russo-Israeli agreement and Helsinki Summit are directly related to the withdrawal of a western backed proxy group from Syria, one need only recall that as Israel was assisting with the White Helmet withdrawal to the Jordanian side of the border, none other than Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Israel meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu.
נפגשתי הערב עם משלחת רוסית בראשות שר החוץ של רוסיה סרגיי לברוב והרמטכ"ל הרוסי ולרי גרסימוב. דנו באיראן ובמצב בסוריה. הקשר בינינו חשוב בצורה בלתי רגילה והוא מתקיים בפגישות ישירות ביני לבין הנשיא פוטין ובין הצוותים שלנו pic.twitter.com/TkmyJGFFuL
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 23, 2018
A war once signified by chaos is now increasingly being formed by half-public/half-private agreements regarding the withdrawal of foreign forces and agreements to move forward with a negotiated settlement.