LONDON: Qatar had entered in secret talks to free 25 of its citizens held in Iraq, instead Doha found itself blackmailed through a web of half a dozen extremists militias, and foreign governments hoping to squeeze million from the rich small gulf nation.
The US Washington Post revealed in an article how a top Qatari diplomat texted his boss saying: ” The Syrians, Hezbollah Lebanon, Kata’ib Hizbollah in Iraq, all want money and this is their chance” the newspaper reported Zayed Bin Said Al-Khayareen, Doha’s ambassador in Baghdad and chief negotiator in the hostage affair. “All of them are thieves” Al-Khayareen said.
The Qataris were willing to pay, and pay they did, the prominent US newspaper wrote. The Washington post added that text messages and exchanges lasting more than 18 months, showed that Qataris appeared to consent to payments totalling $275 million to free nine members of the royal family, and 16 Qatari citizens kidnapped during a hunting trip in southern Iraq according to the intercepted communications obtained by the American newspaper.
The secret records reveal for the first time according to the paper that the payment allocated an additional $150 million in cash for individuals and groups actings as intermediaries but classified as sponsor of international terrorism by the US administration. The paper said those were Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq. The payment deal according to the Washington post would involve Iranian, Iraqi, Turkish, Lebanese and Syrian opposition groups, some did put the final sum payed at $1billion.
The new conversations and text messages received by the Washington post were part of a huge web of communication surrounding the hostage crisis that ended in April 2017. The paper’s reporter listened to recording in Arabic of the on going negotiation made available by a foreign government the paper said. This material show senior Qatari diplomats appearing to sign off on a series of side payment ranging from $5 to $50 million to Iranian, Iraqi officials and paramilitary leaders with $25 million earmarked for Kata’ib Hezbollah’s boss, and $50 million set aside for “Qassem” an apparent reference to Qassem Suleimani, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a key participant in the Hostage deal.
The Washington Post tried to get Qatari official comment on issues raised by the leaks, but Doha declined .