Friday, April 28, 2017
Qatar Pays the Largest Ransom in History - $500,000,000
The Qataris and Saudis were hunting with falcons in southern Iraq in December 2015 when they were seized by armed men from the the powerful Iranian-supported movement known as Ketaeb of God. What an adventure hunting with falcons in southern Iraq must have seemed like to two dozen wealthy Qataris and two Saudi Arabian friends. The hunting party got permission to hunt with their birds of prey from the government in Baghdad. The group, including several members of the Qatari royal al-Thani family, was going to be in the 'safe' part of the country far from the fighting against Isis in the north around Mosul. But there are many armed groups in many parts of Iraq that are not under the control of the Baghdad government. The armed groups are called 'militia' but they are often more like private armies that carry out the goals of religious or other leaders who are essentially war lords. When not fighting other religious groups or 'enemy' targets the militias are often engaged in criminal enterprises with the aim of self enrichment
Southern Iraq is also heavily Shia and Qatar and Saudi Arabia have backed and are backing Sunni militants in Syria and Iraq who are making war on Shia communities. That this wealthy hunting party thought they could go into the heartland of the Shia as Qatar and Saudi Arabia fund and arm Sunni fanatics who make merciless war on Shia shows how out of touch they are. The hunter became the hunted. The 24 Qataris and 2 Saudis were captured by a Shia militia.
The ransom not only involved $500,000,000 in dollars and euros in 23 x-ray proof bags sent to Baghdad airport - the trade involved the release of two surrounded Shia communities in Syria and two surrounded Sunni 'rebel' communities being allowed to evacuate to other areas under a truce. The Islamist 'rebels' showed what they thought of the truce when a suicide bomber in a truck that seemed to be loaded with supplies and treats for children drove next to the evacuation buses of the Shia civilians. As the bomber called the children off a number of buses to his vehicle he set of an explosion that killed about 170 people and wounded another 350. Qatar backs the Islamist 'rebels' who send truck bombers to specifically target Shia children. Another part of the $500,000,000 deal felt through when the Baghdad authorities tried to x-ray and scan the 23 bags that came in on an airplane from Qatar. The bags were cut open and the hundreds of millions of dollars and euros where reveal to the Iraqi authorities who seized the money. The Qatari ambassador to Iraq was on the airplane but had not asked for the bags to be given diplomatic immunity. The Qataris had apparently thought the the hostage takers where working with the Iraqi airport authorities and would pick up the money at the airport.
The Iraq government does not want to give a half billion dollars to help fund a private army that they have no control over. "Hundreds of millions for armed groups? Is this acceptable?" Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked later at a press conference. In a special confidential document Mr. Abadi sent on 22 April 2017 told the Dawa Party members that Qatar had requested landing permission for a plane at Baghdad International Airport on 15 April 2017 so that freed hostages from the hunting party could fly home. When the aircraft landed and was routinely inspected airport officials "were surprised that there were 23 large heavy bags that appeared without prior notice or approval." Going through the x-ray machine "the image appeared black," meaning the contents were in some kind of lead lined bag to avoid detection.
Strangely the Qatari ambassador to Iraq and a special envoy sent by the Qatari Emir Tamimbin Hamad al-Thani got off the plane but did not ask for diplomatic immunity for the bags of money. Apparently the Qataris thought the kidnappers and militia had their own operatives at the airport who would take the bags upon arrival as the hostages came to the plane.
Even before the bags were opened the airport officials could hear the Qataris talking as if the 23 bags contained money. But opening the bags revealed a great deal of money, "hundreds of millions of dollars and euros."
The Iraq government confiscated the money even as the Qatar government informed them that it was a ransom payment. The Iraq government had not been informed, and the Iraq government did not want to see a private army get a half a billion in funding.