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

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.

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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.

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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.


Soul Glow Ignatius Mon, 06/05/2017 - 14:30 Permalink

The world is in a riot storm of emotions and confusion.  We could blame the stars and plantes but this has been going on far to long to do so.  The problem is the limited amount of resources are being plundered by central banks looting government treasuries.  These treasuries were built to enforce people's standard of living but are instead being turned on the people at the behest of the banking system.These banks want to manipulate and confuse people.  They want to remain cloaked while we turn on each other.  No better example than yesterday in Portland Oregon when people began protesting a free speech rally that had a government permit.  The protest turned violent at times, as people are acting out their emotions, yet the problem is not with any individual, but the problem is with the system.  People do not seem to understand this though, and brought weapons to do harm to the rally or the cops.Opposing Portland Protest -

In reply to by Ignatius

Art Van_Delay luky luke Mon, 06/05/2017 - 17:14 Permalink

So the turd house of Saud got pissed off because now that money will go to the Yemen militias instead of ISIS.Brilliant.Maybe Iranian proxies can kidnap some UAE royals also, and slowly isolate the saudis then turn the whole place into a big glass parking lot.Just because they really are asking for itLondon Terror Attacks and The Links to Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia

In reply to by luky luke

fx Art Van_Delay Mon, 06/05/2017 - 18:04 Permalink

Going for hunting to Iraq (wtf??) and getting hunted down themselves there instead. LOL!You really can't make up the utter stupidity of these incestious gulf monarchies' members. It's all a preparation of the zionist-saudi alliance to attack Iran. SAD!Oh , and btw. the US high command in the region sits where? Uhm, well, Doha, Qatar. LOL!

In reply to by Art Van_Delay

OverTheHedge evoila Mon, 06/05/2017 - 23:45 Permalink

Is this actually ONLY about oil, and how to ramp up the price for Saudi Arabia? If OPEC can't do it, attack a weak link producer to create some chaos. If Qatar is in on it  all is good  otherwise....?Paying off both Iran and al Qaida seems odd, on the face of it, but all's fair in love and war, and God knows nothing is straightforward in that part of the world.In conclusion: I have no idea. Don't trust any of this info, or reasoning.

In reply to by evoila

swmnguy HowdyDoody Mon, 06/05/2017 - 18:33 Permalink

Yep, this one's bullshit.  One tipoff is the mention of Obama sending the money to Iran, without mentioning that the money lawfully belonged to Iran, and the US had been unlawfully holding it hostage, to punish Iran for kicking out the Shah the CIA had so kindly provided to them.Another sign of the bullshit is that there's no "$1 Billion ransom."  Reading the story closely, they're intentionally conflating what look like at least two different deals.  One involves the royal hunting party and $700m.  That's questionable right on the face of it. The other deal, or deals, involve two towns in Syria being besieged by Al Quaeda Sunni guys, and two towns in Syria being besieged by Shi'a groups.The way wars work over there, a whole lot of money may have changed hands to get all four towns rescued, by each side paying off the other to not destroy them.This is about building up the "Bomb Iran" theme even more.  Even though I'm not at all a Theist and don't really approve, if I had to pick a place to live in that whole part of the world, it would probably be Iran.  Just in terms of standard of living, educational level, culture, rule of law, actual democracy; there's really nowhere else close.  Thank goodness they're smart enough to have solid good relations and treaties with Russia and China.  I think, in true Middle East fashion, money and threats will spoil the warmongers' dreams.  T.E. Lawrence couldn't get these people to kill each other reliably, either.  Honor, saving face and bragging rights are actually more important, and it's not shameful to pay off an opponent one doesn't want to fight.

In reply to by HowdyDoody

TheReplacement knukles Mon, 06/05/2017 - 19:18 Permalink

It's all just a show.  Qatar is safe or even if not, not a valuable sacrificial lamb.  If worse comes to worst then KSA can absorb Qatar or just bring them some freedom.I think the real point is the MSM will be used to hammer this story in a way that suggests that ISIS and Iran are in cahoots and we need to do something to stop them.  The only question is if we should invade Syria (ala March of the Orange Julius Freedom Fry Brigade) or should we take out Iran too. Germany and Turkey falling out is interesting in this context.

In reply to by knukles

Giant Meteor NumNutt Mon, 06/05/2017 - 15:05 Permalink

Iran's Rouhani denounces US' Middle East ignoranceIran's president fires back at Trump's funding 'terrorists' accusation, saying Americans don't know the region."Americans resorted to many different methods against Iran but failed in all ... We are waiting for the new US administration to find stability and continuity in its policies," Rouhani said."The problem is that the Americans do not know our region and those who advise US officials are misleading them."Rouhani said Iran was the vital force behind the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and repeated Iran's official stance that the United States and Saudi Arabia are funding "terrorism" in the Middle East."Who fought against the terrorists? It was Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia. But who funded the terrorists? Those who fund terrorists cannot claim they are fighting against them," he said.Tehran and Riyadh are involved in proxy wars across the region, backing opposite sides in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.…

In reply to by NumNutt

Giant Meteor shovelhead Mon, 06/05/2017 - 18:14 Permalink

I do not suggest ANY clean hands in ANY of this, .. not at all ..On the other hand, whose sin has been greater ...As many have stated here, things are not what they are made to appear, in any regard ..But WHO has unleashed the kraken, and WHY ...Who are the largest players?Whom are the greatest "funders?"Who has had official policy for YEARS, in sponsoring rabid islamic extremism (terrorism) ?WHO has "blundered" except they were NOT blunders, into the middle of this hell ?Based upon lies ?

In reply to by shovelhead

Yog Soggoth BaBaBouy Mon, 06/05/2017 - 16:26 Permalink

Oh, you caught that too. Iraq is a war zone in which we decide the outcome, so how is it that some Quatar royals are even allowed to enter Iraq except for trade deals with military escort. They decide to go traipsing around near Daesh territory and get captured? This is either some seriously retarded stuff or a fabrication meant to cover up why they were actually there. The hostages that Obama brought back were flown to Geneva and one left on his own, but they were all sailors? What were they doing there? All I know is that when Assad gets his country back he is gonna be awful pissed at the Quatar royals, Israel, Saudi Arabia's royals, and possibly some others.

In reply to by BaBaBouy