June 7, 2017
While the details are very sketchy, it would appear that Iran was the main winner in a recent Arab hostage drama
It would appear that Iran has made another windfall profit on hostage taking. As of now, there are few official confirmations about this story, though Saudi Arabia has officially cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar.
According to a report in the Financial Times, over the last few months, the small oil kingdom allegedly made clandestine payments to Iran, among others, that all totaled add up to around a billion dollars. These monies were paid in exchange for Qatari royals that were taken hostage on a hunting trip in Iraq in 2015 and were held by persons unknown until their recent release.
This payment has created a rift between Qatar and its neighbors, with Saudi Arabia denouncing Qatar as a state-sponsor of terrorist extremism, and taking a range of punitive measures.
To add to the already complex situation, the same report from FT states there are accusations that Qatar may be using kidnappings as a means of funneling money to terrorist groups and maintaining a political cover.
What is likely
Based on the information that the FT presented, Qatari royals were on a hunting trip in Iraq, and they were taken into custody. There appears to have been a drawn-out negotiation process with militia groups and Iran, though all of the proceedings were kept secret for reasons that are now very apparent.
After the payments were made, some of the groups that were involved in this situation felt slighted by Iran, who supposedly received around 700 million US dollars, which may not have been the original agreement.
It should be very clear that there is little that can be known about the motivations for those involved in a situation like this one. There is clearly suspicion within the Arab world that Qatar isn’t being honest about its dealings with radical militia groups and the recent political moves by Saudi Arabia are evidence of that.
The FT cites a source who is a Syrian with close ties to al-Qaeda, and he had this to say on the matter, “”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.”
The Iranians would seem to be the winner in this narrative, and when this recent score is added to the pallet of cash they made from another ransom payment by then-President Obama, they would appear to be sitting on more than 2 billion US dollars, in cash.
It will be interesting to see if there is any official confirmation for this wild story, or if the recent political actions in the Gulf will be explained away with another narrative.