On August 17, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on the announcement that the U.S. State Department would be redirecting approximately $230 million in funds to stabilize and rebuild Syria. She rhetorically asked who the money could have been intended for, claiming that the Islamic State no longer exists in Syria.
Vladimir Putin made a similar announcement about the Islamic State in December of last year. In reality however, the Islamic State is still active in Syria. This was apparent in late July when a contingent of ISIS fighters launched a devastating attack on the Syrian town of Suwayda. Attackers went from house to house executing occupants before running out of ammunition and detonating their suicide bomb vests. In total, around 200 people were killed and another 180 wounded in the attack. A Defense Department report estimates that the Islamic State may currently control five percent of Syria’s territory.
A U.S. Defense Department report estimates that the Islamic State may currently control five percent of Syria’s territory.
Not only the U.S. military and the Western media contradict Russian Foreign Ministry claim that there is no IS fighters left in Syria – the Russian Defense Ministry reported on August 9, an “escalation” of the attacks by the IS groups in certain areas in Syria.That was only a week before Zakharova’s statement. Even the Russia state media -- RT -- put video of the Suwayda attack on YouTube (below), calling in the "worst violence" in the area in seven years.
The funds to be redirected were aimed at rebuilding areas of Syria liberated from IS by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a movement organized by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed factions, the YPG/YPJ (People’s Protection Units/Women’s Protection Units). These forces received air and artillery support from the U.S. and its coalition allies during the campaign to capture Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, in the fall of 2017.
U.S. officials in the Trump administration said that contributions from Saudi Arabia and other coalition allies would more than compensate for the $230 million, and that the U.S. remained committed to the goal of eradicating the Islamic State from Syria and Iraq.
Zakharova’s words suggest that the U.S. is not interested in sponsoring peaceful life in Syria. This claim is also false. According to the UN, the United States is the world’s single largest aid donor to Syria, having provided more than $7.4 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Syrian people, and the effort is ongoing.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. government has provided $73 million aid to Syria since the beginning of 2018. It provided $729 million in 2017, $916 million in 2016, $914 million in 2015, $796 million in 2014, $776 million in 2013, $124 million in 2012 and $26 million in 2011.
Zakharova’s statement recalls earlier Russian statements accusing the U.S. of funding or backing the Islamic State or other “irreconcilable militants” in Syria. In December, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of “arming and training former Islamic State and al Nusra” fighters.We found this false. Any similar allegations or implications in Zakharova’s August 17th statement, of course, are nonsensical given the role the U.S. has played in assisting the Syrian Democratic Forces in their fight against the Islamic State since 2015. In addition to the SDF, the U.S. has also trained other groups to fight against the Islamic State, such as the Revolutionary Commando Army in southern Syria.