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I saw this article floating around Facebook today. It claims:

It’s the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. President Obama has decided to give $195M of taxpayer money to the Islamic nation of Syria to mark the occasion.

...

“To help the many Syrians in need this Eid al-Fitr, the United States is providing an additional $195 million in food aid and other humanitarian aid, bringing our humanitarian contribution to the Syrian people to over $1 billion since the crisis began.”

This is certainly odd and skeptics worthy. We give plenty of aid to countries, but have we ever tied it to a holiday? Furthermore relations between the US and Syria aren't exactly great (unless this article means the rebels in Syria).

Is this article completely bogus? Or is there some truth to it? How much is the article twisting the truth?

  • I +1'd this, because the past "Secret Muslim" rumours about him would make me skeptical of this claim too. – Andrew Grimm Nov 10 '13 at 0:35
  • Why wouldn't we tie aid to a holiday? Morale is almost as important as the material aid, and only a blind idiot would discount a free PR boost for simply correctly timing your gifts to a proper occasion. – Shadur Nov 12 '13 at 7:55
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We give plenty of aid to countries, but have we ever tied it to a holiday?

I don't see why not; for example the first thing I searched for on Google was "Berlin air-drop Christmas" and I found that, indeed, that was an example:

The Berlin Airlift:

December 20: "Operation Santa Claus" brings Christmas gifts to 10,000 Berlin children.

Associating the charitable gift of food with Eid seems to me to be culturally-sensitive or diplomatic: appropriate (however, I see in the first of the 2000-odd comments below the article referenced in the OP, that it also stokes some "Obama is a Muslim" comments at home).

Is this article completely bogus? Or is there some truth to it? How much is the article twisting the truth?

It seems to be entirely true; except that (according to the Whitehouse statement) it's intended for "the many Syrians in need" and "the Syrian people", and not (as stated in the article referenced in the OP) "the Islamic nation of Syria" and "a war-torn Muslim country".

The article cited in the OP said,

In an official White House release, President Obama said: “Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr here in the United States and around the world

Google easily finds the White House release in question: Statement by the President on the Occasion of Eid al-Fitr (August 07, 2013): it includes the sentences which it was alleged to.

I quote below the complete text of the statement:

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr here in the United States and around the world. During the past month, Muslims have honored their faith through prayer and service, fasting and time spent with loved ones. At this year’s White House Iftar, I was proud to spend time with some of the many American Muslims whose contributions enrich our democracy and strengthen our economy. Many of us have had the opportunity to break fast with our Muslim friends and colleagues—a tradition that reminds us to be grateful for our blessings and to show compassion to the less fortunate among us, including millions of Syrians who spent Ramadan displaced from their homes, their families, and their loved ones. To help the many Syrians in need this Eid al-Fitr, the United States is providing an additional $195 million in food aid and other humanitarian aid, bringing our humanitarian contribution to the Syrian people to over $1 billion since the crisis began. For millions of Americans, Eid is part of a great tapestry of America’s many traditions, and I wish all Muslims a blessed and joyful celebration. Eid Mubarak.


To answer your comment,

We're not turning money over to the Assad regime, but I'm guessing to some kind of aid workers.

There's some information about that in this September 23, 2013 article by the Associated Press -- U.S. faces tough challenges to deliver aid in Syria says,

The U.S. assistance to the crisis flows from three spigots.

The first $1 billion goes for humanitarian needs. Half is for Syrians now crowded in camps or communities in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt or Iraq. The other half is for Syrians who are displaced from their homes, but still live inside Syria.

The U.N. can work in regime-controlled areas, but not in ones held by the opposition unless the government approves. So far Assad has said no. The opposition areas, therefore, rely on the work of NGOs — many supported by U.S. tax dollars.

The second spigot of money — $26 million so far — is non-lethal assistance the U.S. is providing to the Free Syrian Army. That has paid for more than 350,000 meals given to opposition fighters as a test to see if they ended up in the wrong hands. They didn't and now the U.S. is sending the army bigger items like trucks, large radios and medical equipment.

The third spigot — some $250 million — is given to local councils springing up in areas no longer controlled by the government. The money pays for training — a kind of Governance 101 — for Syrians trying to get services turned back on in the middle of a war. It also provides small cash grants to the councils and heavy equipment, such as fire trucks, ambulances, generators, water tanks and garbage trucks.

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  • Ok, that seems reasonable. I think I was confused by giving to the mention of the "state of Syria". That part is a bit misleading. We're not turning money over to the Assad regime, but I'm guessing to some kind of aid workers. – Doug T. Nov 9 '13 at 19:02
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    @DougT. I found news articles like the one which I just added to my answer, by adding the word "distribution" to my Google search: google.com/search?q=usa+foreign+aid+syria+food+distribution – ChrisW Nov 9 '13 at 20:21

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