The Shocking Trigger Behind Today's Gulf Scandal: Qatar Paid Al-Qaeda, Iran $1BN In Hostage Deal

Tyler Durden's picture

The FT has unveiled what its believes is the key trigger behind the shocking overnight collapse in diplomatic relations between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors. According to the FT, the catalyst that forced the Saudis and their allies to unveil the cut in diplomatic and economic ties, is that Qatar allegedly paid up to $1 billion to Iran and al-Qaeda affiliates "to release members of the Gulf state’s royal family who were kidnapped in Iraq while on a hunting trip, according to people involved in the hostage deal"; the secret deal was allegedly one of the triggers behind Gulf states’ dramatic decision to cut ties with Doha.

The details of the payoff: "around $700m was paid both to Iranian figures and the regional Shia militias they support, according to regional government officials. They added that $200m to $300m went to Islamist groups in Syria, most of that to Tahrir al-Sham, a group with links to al-Qaeda."

A regional Arab official said the total paid to jihadi groups was closer to $300m. “So, if you add that up to the other $700m they paid to Iran and its proxies, that means Qatar actually spent about a billion dollars on this crazy deal,” he said.

* * *

The Iraqi Shia militia commanders in Iraq, all from hardline Iranian-backed groups, said that, to their knowledge, Iran had obtained around $400m after giving them a payment they would not disclose. They agreed to share some details because they were unhappy about their share of the payment.


“They [the Iranians] took the lion’s share,” said a member of one of the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq. “That’s caused some of us to be frustrated, because that was not the deal.”

The "ransom payments are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said one Gulf observer.

Not to be confused with the Obama administration secretly airlifting crates full of $1.7 billion in cash to Tehran to release five US hostages held by Iran, the FT writes that commanders of militant groups and government officials in the region told the Financial Times that "Doha spent the money in a transaction that secured the release of 26 members of a Qatari hunting party in southern Iraq and about 50 militants captured by jihadis in Syria."

By their telling, Qatar paid off two of the most frequently blacklisted forces of the Middle East in one fell swoop: an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting in Syria and Iranian security officials.

If nothing else, at least Qatar got a better bang for the physical buck, at $38 million per hostage, compared to the $340 million the Obama administration paid for the five US hostages released by Tehran.

While there is no official evidence, the FT adds that the deal, which was concluded in April, heightened concerns among Qatar’s neighbours about the small gas-rich state’s role in a region plagued by conflict and bitter rivalries, which however is at least somewhat confusing: after all it was well-known since the Podesta emails that even the US state department had confirmed that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar were the two primary funders of the Islamic State and various Jihidaist groups in the region. Recall from our October 2016 post:

In a leaked email sent on August 17, 2014 by Hillary Clinton to her current campaign manager, John Podesta, who back then was counselor to Barack Obama, she admitted that Qatar and Saudi Arabia "are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region."


The email, which was sent just days after the US launched it "temporary" air campaign in Syria, which has now extended over two years, represents an eight-point plan laying out ideas how to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Clinton’s email said that the United States should engage in "military operations against these very irregular but determined forces" by "making proper use of clandestine/special operations resources, in coordination with airpower, and established local allies" such as Kurdish forces.


Having confirmed the role of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hillary then states that "we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia" and recommends to step up US commitment to the Kurdish Regional Government or KRG. "The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious U.S. pressure.  By the same token, the threat of similar, realistic U.S. operations will serve to assist moderate forces in Libya, Lebanon, and even Jordan, where insurgents are increasingly fascinated by the ISIL success in Iraq."

In any case, last year's revalation appears to have been "news" to Saudi Arabia - the other named source of funding to ISIS, and on Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain took the extraordinary step of cutting off diplomatic ties and transport links to Qatar, alleging the country fuels extremism and terrorism.“

The FT further notes that "Doha denies it backs terrorist groups and dismissed the blockade by its neighbours as “founded on allegations that have no basis in fact”. It said it could not immediately respond to a request for comment on the hostage deal. But a person close to the Qatari government acknowledged that “payments” were made. The person was unaware of the amounts or where the money went."

Doha has a history of reaching out to all kinds of controversial groups, from rebels in Sudan’s Darfur region to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hamas in Gaza. Qatar touts itself as a neutral player that can act as an intermediary in regional conflicts. But its critics, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allege it also uses such interventions to play both sides and fund radical Islamist groups, most recently in Libya and Syria. And to Doha’s critics, the hostage deal was further evidence of that role.

In an amusing twist, one FT source - a Syrian opposition figure who has worked with an al-Qaeda mediator on hostage swaps in Syria. - adds that "if you want to know how Qatar funds jihadis, look no further than the hostage deal.... And this isn’t the first — it is one of a series since the beginning of the war."

Those who spoke to the FT said the deal highlighted how Qatar has allegedly used hostage payments to bankroll jihadis in Syria. But to its Gulf neighbours, the biggest issue is likely to be the fact that Doha could have paid off their main regional rival, Iran, which they accuse of fuelling conflicts in the Arab world.


This particular saga began when an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militia, known as Kata’eb Hizbollah, kidnapped the Qataris in December 2015. Three Iraqi militia leaders say the hostages were held in Iran.


Kata’eb Hizbollah is an Iraqi group but it is seen as having links with Iran’s main regional proxy, Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group. The latter is helping Iran back Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, in his country’s six-year conflict.

It gets better: the hostage transaction was also linked to a separate agreement, signed in March 2017, to facilitate the evacuation of four mutually besieged towns in Syria — two surrounded by jihadi forces and two besieged by Shia militias — according to the FT's sources: "Syrian rebels and diplomats." One western diplomat said the arrangement provided Qatar the “cover” to finance the hostage deal.

“Iran and Qatar had long been looking for a cover to do this [hostage] deal, and they finally found it,” he said.

According to two opposition figures with close contact with the groups paid, Qatar used the evacuation arrangement to pay $120-$140m to Tahrir al-Sham. Another $80m, they said, went to the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham. “The Qataris pay anyone and everyone, to what end? They have only brought about our ruin,” said a Syrian rebel commander, who gave details about the payments but asked not to be identified.

* * *

Going back to our analogy of Obama dumping crates of cash - anywhere between $400 million and $1.7 billion - in Iran, it appears this time was not that different:

Another confusing chapter of the deal is that Haidar al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, said in April his government had seized hundreds of millions of dollars, which Iraqi officials said arrived on Qatari planes “illegally”. It is not clear if this is money is part of the sums mentioned above, or an additional amount.

The punchline: “The money all came in suitcases, can you imagine this?” said one senior official.

And while Qatar has now been scapegoated for funding Al-Qaeda and ISIS, something most have known for years, a question emerges: does this mean that Saudi Arabia - another chronic supporter of terrorism in the region and around the globe - is now off the hook. That would be problematic in light of Saudi Arabia's own on the record admission that it itself created Daesh, or ISIS, which however it allegedly did only in response to Obama's disastrous policy in the region. From the Financial Times:

After the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to a lightning Isis offensive in 2014, even the late Prince Saud al-Faisal, the respected Saudi foreign minister, remonstrated with John Kerry, US secretary of state, thatDaesh [Isis] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da’wa” — the Tehran-aligned Shia Islamist ruling party of Iraq.

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just the tip's picture

does this mean that Saudi Arabia - another chronic supporter of terrorism in the region and around the globe - is now off the hook?

uh, when has KSA ever been on the hook?  for anything?

Librarian's picture

KSA just sacrificed a backward pawn, and the game continues.

It will turn out badly for those countries that didn't already know that they weren't even on the scorecards as knights or bishops.

Pull It Silverstein's picture

Fixed it for you, FT.         (by the way, anyone seen Horseface Kerry?)

"In a leaked email sent on August 17, 2014 by Hillary Clinton to her current campaign manager, John Podesta, who back then was  Consigliere  to Barack Obama, 




Korprit_Phlunkie's picture

Obama was the bag man. THis is the pallet full of money that he delivered.

MuffDiver69's picture

Looks like the Presidents speech worked. If we can get these people to start killing each other for any reason then I'm cool with it. Doesn't matter why. It's time to insult Mexico or Canada. These schmucks have had an easy go last few weeks...I would kee it up on the mayor of Londanistan as well....That guy is an asshole...Good times...

goldinpenguin's picture

They were probably hunting for cherry camel boys to hump.

What would Saudis do if some of their royals got kidnapped? The same I'm sure.

ironmace's picture

So Quatar pays ransom and everyone shuns them?

What were they supposed to do, use their massive military and go get them, or go see The Godfather to ask for help?

Would The Godfather do anything, considering an act against Iran?

Don't know, didn't happen, but the bullshit is piling high enough you need wings.


edit: what's there to hunt in Iraq anyway?

blue51's picture

Falcons , supposedly.

DirtySanchez's picture

If bozo, moochie, or their baboons get kidnapped, I'd kick in one banana to their gofundme kidnap release page.

Caleb Abell's picture

" ... kidnapped in Iraq while on a hunting trip ... "

I guess that's a pretty exciting way to hunt.  While you're hunting some animal in the woods, some other animals with AK-47s are hunting you.  I imagine that you would never get bored.

mary mary's picture

That's true manly hunting, hunting the wild boar while the militia is hunting you.  Qataris apparently have more balls than Dick Cheney.

Benito_Camela's picture

It is the 50th anniversary of the fraudulently launched Six Day War. 


In three days it will be the 50th anniversary of the Israeli targeting and sinking of the USS Liberty in a blatant act of aggression and an attempted false flag on an ally in the attempt to draw us into the war. 


What are the odds that Trump will declassify the rest of the NSA material? 

shovelhead's picture

Draw us into the war? Wake up and smell the coffee. Johnson gave them the greenlight. It was a setup.

They fucked up by not sinking it. Johnson had to recall the bombers on their way to Cairo.

Oops. Que mistaken identity story on the fly. Ever wonder why it was so lame and full of as many holes as the ship?

Who gave you the Gulf of Tonkin?

Benito_Camela's picture

I'm not sure what you don't understand about the term "false flag" with the knowledge of both sides (meaning SOME American leaders), but that's not the point. By "us" I meant the U.S. public sentiment, as that was still somewhat important (though since 2001, it's meaningless) and it would have been needed to elicit U.S. open involvement in Israel's little war of aggression and land grab.

And obviously that's why Trump (and nobody else) will never declassify the remaining documents on the matter. 




falak pema's picture

Why doesn't the Duck AT LEAST disclose the truth about JFK now up for release, if the Potus says "yes" ! 

Benito_Camela's picture

In case it wasn't clear, I was agreeing with you. Johnson was indeed in on the fix. 

shovelhead's picture

I think we need to leave them alone to kill each other until they're all wiped out and come back for the oil.

quesnay's picture

They didn't demand payment in bitcoin? What a bunch of Luddites.

"Bitcoin - the currency preferred by 3 out of 4 criminals" (TM)

I kid, I kid.

Fundies's picture

That's one Bitcoin per hostage folks. 

TePikoElPozo's picture

idiots took monopoly money as payment... fresh off the printer

i would have demanded gold

withglee's picture

idiots took monopoly money as payment... fresh off the printer

i would have demanded gold

And you would still be waiting. And even if you got gold, you would have to go to the morons at ZH and who think gold is money and exchange it for real money ... i.e. something you can really use to trade over time and space. Gold just wastes a step and its added negotiation, transaction, transportation, and storage cost, Really brilliant people here at ZH.

And besides, there wouldn't even be counterfeit money as payment if the counterfeiter didn't see the bribee as a useful fence. Remember, with "real" money, there is a "real" trader involved. With government counterfeiting there is not.

TePikoElPozo's picture

okay....  i'll take pussy payments instead

withglee's picture

okay....  i'll take pussy payments instead

Cute doesn't look good on you.

JackMeOff's picture

Wonder if pallets of bills were sitting on a tarmac in Switzerland for this ransom?

mary mary's picture

Janet had to work all night cranking out a billion fresh ones.  Call it a favor.

falak pema's picture

The hunt for Red October turned into the abused, "deer in the headlights",  hunted Hillary cabal of Clintonista fame--alike Medusa of Old as the hated icon---now coming back in inevitable backlash to the Russian conspiracy on the boil, with an appointment with Destiny  for a hot June shakedown of the Petro-Dollar hegemony,  coming apart in total panic mode in the sands of Araby like the quicksands of a new artificial swampland.

An AMerican alliance that is melting down?

Kissinger must pinch his own  well used carcass to convince himself  that what he achieved is now dying.

Oh, the Bilderberg blues of the Blue Bros ! 

Some friends are hard to dispose of...the Bandar Bush clan...of 9/11 camaraderie !

When ZH and the Duck write the sequel to why Putin is the new King of a Pax Americana oil patch game that looks like a totally fucked up duck on a  NRA subsidized wild goose chase, reverberating on Homeland in total disarray, alike a hypersexed, hot, blonde Barbie type pussy that yearns in smartphoned selfies to be clasped beyond the soporific vapors of a gasping, grope-a-long, orgasmical embrace; worthy of Tiger Wood's best mulitple performance; by the greatest US Casino Lord-Man that ever lived. Some cloud-infested fake reality of a real dystopian world.

Oh shades of Greystroke and White man's rule in deep down Congo, where Jane was so precious as they ran towards the African Queen and lost the subsequent rumble in the Jungle to the sons of "float like a butterfly sting like a bee" black magic.

Some white magic can't cope with black blowback of primal exquisite magnitude.

Fortunately Rambo, Rocky and Terminator were there to right the White ship of true fake  american supremacy!

Under the banner of Reaganomics ! Until it went truly sour under Dubya and 9/11 cum Iraq infamy !

Now...Superman! Amen. The Canard à L'Orange as ruler of free world ! 

Meanwhile back in Black gold land, some Sheikhs don't know how to rattle n roll ! 

So says the lord of the Tweet.

And he is now gunning ---in total Comeyed desperation-- at the coloured-- brown like sheet-- mayor of London town, the ex-kingdom of special relationship with the Lords of Libored WS-City tinsel town of derivative AI fed, fake fiat games; a cloned operation akin to the lost kingdom of Lance Armstrong's 7 year reign over the mythical Tour de France; now in open rebellion with TINSEL TOWN of Sauron's fellowship of the evil ring of $ fake athletic doped hegemony.

Macroned to the point of being in total disharmony.

Oh the irony; from friendly Sarko to evil Macron!

What a come down for Pax Americana which won't take NO for an answer from friend nor foe! 

Play on the Duck's new world symphony of total toxic denialism.

While Mutti prepares Die Neibelungen! 

smacker's picture

Well falak, what can I say ;-)

falak pema's picture

Coming from you thats a true compliment.

Kevin Trader's picture

The "ransom payments are the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said one Gulf observer. Which is funny becasue that is what they were hunting!


Next thing you know they'll start providing guns and ammunition to "mederate" freedom fighters

SummerSausage's picture

FT has proven to be a left wing mouthpiece so I would question both their facts and their motives.

Hillary and Obama shipped arms to ISIS from Benghazi through Qatar and Qatar is the country Obama released Guantanamo terrorists to.  Qatar also housed the terror organization Muslim Brotherhood while Obama was in office.

I would trust Conservative Treehouse reporting on this before left wing FT.

Offthebeach's picture

Nobody kidnaps any Russian.  1. The Russians aren't that stupid. 2. Say goodbye to your kids, wife ( wives ), friends.

jfb's picture

So zerohedge is back at peddling lies & propaganda; no surprise

mendigo's picture

What a freaking mess.

And these people (state dept, military, cia)  claim to be intelligent professionals.


directaction's picture

This story sounds fishy to me. Faked up.

mary mary's picture

Hostage ransom stories always sound fishy.  But they happen.

mary mary's picture

Arab royals sound like a bunch of gossipy hens. 

S: "You chickened out!"

Q: "Well, you get out of your gold-leafed royal jet and go next time, so we can see how much better you do."

S: "No, we only hunt game from helicopters, you idiots.  Or have the USA send a jet fighter to napalm the game."

Q: "Because you can't even get up on a camel anymore, you obese blood-sucking fleas".

Snout the First's picture

Shouldn't it be obvious by now? Anyone who goes to Iran, regardless of who you are, for whatever the reason, is making one bigass mistake.

sinbad2's picture

The story is BS.

The idea that Iran and Shia militias would give Sunni al Qaeda, the version 1 CIA terror army a single cent is preposterous.

Just more BS from your friendly CIA agency.

NuYawkFrankie's picture

re Qatar Paid Al-Qaeda, Iran $1BN In Hostage Deal

At least Al-Qaeda's "take" will be funneled back to Langley.

jfb's picture

As this article said it in one phrase, "no official evidence", so this is baloney.
Qatar & Saudi Arabia BOTH used to distribute money to al-Qaeda affiliated groups for years, although Saudi Arabia's puppet is more the ISIS . The real reason behind this rupture is the axis Qatar-Turkey, since Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in Syria (and order its proxies to stop fighting) and got closer to Russia, the Saudis and the US are furious.
Now, Iran has offered to help Qatar with food shipment by sea to alleviate the Saudi embargo and Al Jazeera (based in Qatar) is no longer anti-Iranian, hardly the behavior of someone who would have just paid a ransom to an hostage taker.
But there is an (unconfirmed) rumor that in order to drive Qatar to stop its support of jihadist groups in Syria, the Iranians offered them a stake in a new gas pipeline that will cross Iraq & Syria and that Doha accepted.

Pft's picture

This makes a lot of sense. By not going along (anti Iran and pro Al Qaeda/ISIS) they get exposed at supporting the terrorists and appeasing the supposed leading terrorist state (Iran and not Saudi Arabia). Plus we need another enemy for Saudi Arabia to justify our massive arms deal to them (the resl leading terrorist state in the middle east).

short screwed's picture

I like your theory. The question now is how long 'till the Qatari royals get Gadhafied?

Pft's picture

US, Saudis , Turkey and Israel know they have been caught in their support for ISIS (at least by the few remaining with a functional brain) . How else to explain their weapons, vehicles and training and so much more. Qatar is simply being set up as a patsy. Only the gullible believe Qatar was acting alone.

The US sells billions every year in weapons sales to Gulf States including Qatar. You can bet much of that ends up in ISIS hands and will continue

are we there yet's picture

Honor among thieves is a fallacy. Honor in the middle east if present is only in appearance. Rational or selfless thinking is also very rare in the middle east.

Sh3epdog's picture

I wonder. A hostage deal may be a convenient way for gov in the middle east to quickly and under a guise give funding to radical militant groups in neighboring countries. For not great leaders in the middle east the primary concerns may be the a resource war and power struggle going in in the middle east. Qutar's ruling party could simply go on holiday and "get captured by horrible bad independant militia's" - that try to use relegion to make things some sort of holy war when thier operations, money trail and way alot of the people high up in those groups act make it look like just a bunch of thugs and bandits grabbing money and power. Governments in the middle east may likely use "Hostage situations" to fund groups they wish to fund for whatever reason that if they did so publicly and openly they would get much criticism for funding. The ruling party could just organize in advance of any "vacations or trips" to send resources to a group that would then disperse the funds into whatever group the countries ruling party wishes to support. 

The US and Soviet republic fought proxy wars, each trying to undermine the other's sphere of influence, though primarilly in soviet bordering regions. PErhaps much of the conflict in the middle east is like those sort of conflicts in the past, but with the added complications of there being poor countries with rich resources that "stronger" countries would like to "benefit" from - although such stupid wars to secure resources seem to end up costing the countries that go to war to secure them more than if they'd decided not to get involved.

Little honar among thieves - "They agreed to share some details because they were unhappy about their share of the payment.


“They [the Iranians] took the lion’s share,” said a member of one of the Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq. “That’s caused some of us to be frustrated, because that was not the deal.”

- "This deal keeps getting worse all the time."

quax's picture

Because Iraq is the first, prime location that comes to mind when you think "hunting trip". 


Iraq or ghanistan. Prime huntin spots. I went on a huntin trip there about ten years ago:) Although not that exotic, the wild game was very plentiful. Just gotta watch out. They shoot back.