Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Despite strict warnings from the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), Qatar has had been indulged in dirty power politics in the region. It has had been investing in the growth of terrorism. Ultimately, GCC cancelled its membership and put various sanctions on it. Unfortunately, despite regional reconciliation efforts and international conflict resolution meetings, Qatar has not yet been amend its vicious circles and connections with terrorists organizations which is now seriously harming the regional security.
Most recently, the latest report published in the Washington Post titled “hacked messages show Qatar appearing to pay hundreds of millions to free hostages” reconfirmed that Qatar paid over a billion dollars to extremist Shi’ite militias in Syria and Iraq. The Syrians, ‘Hezbollah’-Lebanon, the Iraqi Hezbollah all want money, and this is their chance,” Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen, Qatar’s ambassador to Iraq and chief negotiator in the hostage affair, wrote in a message. “All of them are thieves.”
Qatar has had been notorious to have close connections with regional terrorists organization which it used to get released its kidnapped people in Iraq. Qatar bypassed all international diplomacy, transparency and law to deal with kidnappers. Qatar intentionally utilized its secretive ties with terrorists organizations especially Iran’s trained, sponsored and financed Shi’ite militias. In this way Qatar tried to weaken GCC security shield.
Iran has had been interfering in the domestic affairs of other regional countries and secretive working for a greater Iran role in the region. Iran was the first country to rescued Qatar.
The message was sent last year in wake of the abduction of 25 Qatari citizens by Iraqi kidnappers. Qatar had kicked off secret talks to ensure their release. The bargaining however turned into a kind of group shakedown, the official said, with a half-dozen militias and foreign governments jostling to squeeze cash from Doha. Confidential documents confirmed that Qatar indeed paid these extremist Iran-backed groups, including the Lebanese “Hezbollah” and Iraqi Hezbollah.
After much fretting and grousing, Qatari officials consented to payments totaling at least $275 million to free nine members of the royal family and 16 other Qatari nationals kidnapped during a hunting trip in southern Iraq, according to copies of the intercepted communications.
According to leaked documents, for the first time that the payment plan allocated an additional $150 million in cash for individuals and groups acting as intermediaries, although they have long been regarded by US officials as sponsors of international terrorism. These include Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iraqi Hezbollah, a group linked to numerous lethal attacks on American troops during the Iraq War. The payments were part of a larger deal that would involve the Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish governments, as well as Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” and at least two Syrian opposition groups, including the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front. Although, Qatar acknowledged receiving help from multiple countries in securing the hostages’ release last year but has consistently denied reports that it paid terrorist organizations as part of the deal.
The leaked documents published in the Washington Post on April 28, 2018 showed a sort of “Italian Chain” in secretive deals with Iranian and Iraqi officials and paramilitary leaders, with $25 million earmarked for an Iraqi Hezbollah boss and $50 million set aside for “Qassem,” an apparent reference to Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. It was channelized by senior Qatari diplomats to sign off on a series of side payments ranging from $5 to $50 million to these people and organizations. Moreover, the text exchanges are part of a trove of private communications about the hostage ordeal that were surreptitiously recorded by a foreign government and provided to The Post.
The intercepted communications also include cellphone conversations and voice-mail messages in Arabic that were played for Post reporters for authentication purposes, on the condition that the name of the foreign government that provided the materials not be revealed. A top Qatari diplomat sent a text message to his boss to complain about a brazen robbery being perpetrated against his own country. Qatar had entered secret talks to free 25 of its citizens from kidnappers in Iraq, yet the bargaining had turned into a kind of group shakedown, the official said, with a half-dozen militias and foreign governments jostling to squeeze cash from the wealthy Persian Gulf state.
“The Syrians, Hezbollah-Lebanon, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Iraq all want money, and this is their chance,” Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen, Qatar’s ambassador to Iraq and chief negotiator in the hostage affair, wrote in the message. “All of them are thieves.” And yet, the Qataris were willing to pay, and pay they did, confidential documents confirm.
The secret records reveal for the first time that the payment plan allocated an additional $150 million in cash for individuals and groups acting as intermediaries, although they have long been regarded by U.S. officials as sponsors of international terrorism. These include Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi paramilitary group linked to numerous lethal attacks on American troops during the Iraq War, the records show. Qatar’s ambassador to the United States asserted flatly that “Qatar did not pay a ransom.”
But the conversations and text messages obtained by The Post paint a more complex portrait. They show senior Qatari diplomats appearing to sign off on a series of side payments ranging from $5 million to $50 million to Iranian and Iraqi officials and paramilitary leaders, with $25 million earmarked for a Kata’ib Hezbollah boss and $50 million set aside for “Qassem,” an apparent reference to Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a key participant in the hostage deal.
Other governments, including some in the West, have paid ransoms to known terrorist organizations to win the release of kidnapped citizens. For example, France and Spain paid cash to kidnappers either directly or through state-owned companies to free French and Spanish nationals captured by the Islamic State or al-Qaeda affiliates in separate incidents between 2010 and 2014.
Qatar’s bargaining with militants over the hostage affair would become a flash point in a larger feud between the country and its Arab neighbors, some of which have repeatedly criticized Qatari leaders over what they say are the country’s cordial ties with Iran and support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups identified with political Islam. Weeks after the hostages were freed, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined three other Arab states in severing relations with Qatar, triggering a diplomatic crisis that quickly escalated into a virtual blockade on shipping and air travel into and out of Qatar.
In June 2017 US President Trump supported the embargo and blasted Qatar as a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.” But Trump lavished praise on Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, when he visited Washington this month, calling him a “big advocate” for combating terrorism financing.
Iraq in late 2015 was an extraordinarily dangerous place. A third of the country was occupied by the Islamic State, while elsewhere, bands of Kurdish and Shiite militiamen roamed towns and villages as Iraqi leaders mobilized for an all-out assault against the Islamist extremists. Yet, in November 2015, a large party of Qataris entered southern Iraq’s Muthanna province to enjoy a pastime favored by well-to-do Arabs since antiquity: using trained falcons to hunt a desert game bird called the houbara bustard which showed secretive links of Qatari royal family with regional terrorists organizations.
Qatar set up a crisis team that included Khayareen and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, as well as Hamad bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, a personal adviser to the emir. Once it became clear that the captors were an Iranian-backed militia group, the officials began working through an array of influential intermediaries to gain the hostages.
Of the complex deal that ultimately emerged, key elements have been documented by other publications. The Guardian and the Financial Times last year described how the release of Qatar’s hostages became tied to an Iranian-engineered plan, supported by Turkey and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, to evacuate four Syrian villages two Sunni and two Shiite that had been under siege for months by different militant groups. Last month, an article in the New York Times Magazine recounted the seizure of $360 million in Qatari cash money apparently intended in part to pay off the Syrian fighters and implement the evacuations by Iraqi officials at Baghdad’s international airport as the hostage-release plan was being implemented.
At the outset, Qatari diplomats appeared to struggle to understand what the kidnappers wanted. After a perplexing silence in the early weeks of the ordeal, Kata’ib Hezbollah officials spoke directly to Khayareen to discuss the possibility of releasing two of the captives, while also issuing confusing demands. Khayareen, recounting the phone conversations with Kata’ib Hezbollah’s negotiator, told Qatar’s foreign minister that the militants asked him to “bring the money” in exchange for the two hostages. But later, through an Iraqi intermediary, the kidnappers asked for other concessions that appeared intended to benefit Iran: Qatar’s complete withdrawal from the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, and a promise to release Iranian soldiers held by Qatari-backed Sunni rebels in Syria.
“Your requests are not logical at all,” the kidnappers were told, Khayareen wrote in a March 2016 text.
But soon afterward, money becomes a primary focus. In the text exchanges and phone conversations, Qatari officials initially discuss a payment of $150 million to Kata’ib Hezbollah if all the hostages are released, with an additional fee of $10 million to an Iraqi mediator for the group identified as Abu Mohammed al-Sa’adi. It was the first of many discussions of possible side payments for militia officials and mediators, some of whom demanded additional money from the Qataris while simultaneously asking for discretion so that their militia brethren would not discover that they were receiving bonuses.
“Al-Sa’adi asked me, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ” Khayareen told the Qatari foreign minister in a voice-mail message played for The Post. “The man told me frankly, ‘I want ten [million dollars]. I told him, ‘Ten? I am not giving you ten. Only in one case: If you get my guys done, 100 percent, I will give you the $150 [million] and then I will give you the ten.”
By April 2017, after additional meetings with Iranians, the outlines of a comprehensive deal are in place. In a carefully choreographed chain of events, buses arrive at the four Syrian villages to begin the evacuations, and the Qatari hostages are taken to Baghdad and released. Senior Qatari officials are present to help oversee both events, the documents show.
How much money the Qataris ultimately doled out to close the deal is not spelled out in the documents obtained by The Post. But the Qataris in the intercepted communications are explicit about the amounts earmarked for individuals who assisted in delivering the hostages. Just days after the captives’ release, on April 25, 2017, Khayareen picks up his cellphone once more to give Qatar’s foreign minister the breakdown. He lists five recipients who would divvy up $150 million in Qatari cash:
“Qassem, 50. Sulaymaniyah [provincial government official who facilitated the negotiations], 50. Abu Hussain, leader of Kata’ib, 25. Banhai [Iranian official involved in the talks], 20.”The final person on the list is Abu Mohammed al-Sa’adi, the negotiator for Kata’ib Hezbollah who had asked for an extra $10 million. He is rewarded with $5 million.
Khayareen follows up with a seven-second voice-mail message to his boss confirming that all the payments have been made. “They are done and distributed,” he is heard to say.
Earlier the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs said that Qatar’s newly released terror list confirmed it supported extremism and terrorism. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar over its support of extremism and interference in other countries’ affairs. The four Arab countries stand firm by their decision to boycott Qatar.
Saudi Arabia and UAE have been showing their displeasure about Qatar’s connections with terrorists organization for the last of so many years. Qatar’s financing to regional terrorist organizations i.e. Shi’ite militias ‘Hezbollah’-Lebanon, the Iraqi Hezbollah, ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi paramilitary group etc. The hostage release payments were part of ‘’a larger deal that involved the Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish governments as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and at least two Syrian opposition groups, including al-Nusra Front, the notorious Sunni rebel faction linked to al-Qaeda,’’ with the total sum for the return of the hostages reaching as high as $1 billion.