Tracking ID UA-126977798-1
Good Morning from Qatar:
Every time I land in the main airport in Doha I am amazed at how much it has been expanded and improved. Then again an increase in air traffic, transfers and international visitors are processed through the capital since I worked here briefly in 2011. The World Cup will be held here in 2022, so building is booming and thousands of ex-pat "workers" are brought in to serve the needs of this small but wealthy Sheikdom. However the more recent news catching worldwide attention in the past year was the fact that Qatar paid the highest ransom ever known for the return of members of their ruling family - the Al Thani's.
Not only was the 1 billion dollars paid to the "kidnappers" but at least $125 million more was doled out for "side payments"-contractors and middle people from Iraq and Syria representing various violent groups. The players list included: Al Qaida, Hamas, Al Nusra, Kataib Hezbollah, The Muslim Brotherhood among the "Terrorist Top Ten". (see links below for more specifics) It is almost comical that the 28 members of the royal family of Qatar who ignored warnings about going falcon hunting in southern Iraq, ended up being the hunted. One of the main reasons Qatar was sanctioned, borders were closed and diplomatic ties were severed by it's neighbors was because they all objected to this complex hostage negotiation and payment. They suspected it was also a cover for supporting various Iranian backed militias as well.
Moreover, lately Doha has hosted not so secret/top secret meetings between the US State Department and the Taliban. The Taliban still has an office in Doha flying their Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan flag out front which so infuriated former President Hamid Karzai back in 2013. The Taliban is said to control more than 70% of Afghanistan at present. This statistic is stated by official reports which have downplayed the Taliban resurgence.
Meanwhile the US has finally called for an end to supporting these violent extremist/terrorist groups yet still fulfills contracts for weapon sales to Qatar (albeit some contracts signed before the Trump presidency). A 12 billion USD deal (with Boeing company to benefit most) for the sale of fighter jets to Qatar does make for conflicted messages coming so soon after the announcement by President Trump about Qatar being a "sponsor of terror groups" and the USA not wanting to go along with them on that platform any longer. www.vox.com/world/2017/6/16/15810998/trump-qatar-arms-sale-plane-f15
"The deal was in the works for a while — it’s actually part of a larger $21 billion agreement made back in November 2016, in the waning weeks of the Obama administration. "
Actually, since John McCain just died it is important to remember that one of his legacies is that he dealt in a bi-partisan manner when it came to pushing his political cohorts to remove embargoes, sanctions, impediments to weapons deals around the world. Whether it was to former adversaries including Vietnam, Libya, Iran,eastern European countries, Saudi Arabia, conflict areas including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, `Ukraine, Sudan and oh yes....Qatar. Senator John McCain was there. www.dw.com/en/us-senate-refuses-to-block-saudi-arabia-arms-sale/a-19567173 (see more links below)
However, Qatar trades part of it's public image on the fact they "won" the bid for hosting the World Cup in 2022. The evidence of bribes and "donations" persists and the money spent to beautify, upgrade and display Qatar for the world is in the billions of dollars and on the sweating, overworked backs of more than 60,000 additional ex-pat workers brought in from countries where grinding poverty faces them with little choice than to leave their families for some possibility of financial remumeration in a country that will use and forget them. (see link) They may even die in this peaceful country with no money spent to return their bodies to their families. Hundreds have already. Trafficking in other industries including the sex trade-which flourishes in the underground economy of the GCC Muslim nations-persists in the glitz, glamour and facade of the men in white flowing thaubs and the women dressed in black abayas. All this for "the beautiful game" of football /soccer and tourism.
What we often choose to forget is that this all continues because of the aggressive thirst for fossil fuels for energy. The fact the Gulf countries have the natural resources in abundance which the industrialized world craves, means they will continue to rake in billions of dollars in revenues and work together to control the price and the power that goes hand in fist. Who or what they decide to spend those billions on- is their choice.
Frustrating as it may be to observe from the outside, the ruling GCC families are large, entitled, autocratic and entrenched. Most western families would find it hard to muster 28 members together to go to a wedding or funeral together much less travel for an ensemble hunting holiday. Most western families would be reluctant to use their savings to retrieve their own kin from the clutches of kidnappers. Their own governments would hardly help even if their family member was an ambassador. Their own governments may not know who and how to negotiate for release.
The US, Australia and Canada still have hostages taken by some of these same groups the Al Thani's negotiate with and give money to support. The Qataris have become adept at cultivating contracts and contractors in all sectors. That's the way it has evolved.
Meantime, the violent extremist groups are laughing, ha ha ha...all the way to the banks. What and how the banks, including 'respectable' name commercial institutions such as HSBC, launder this blood money-well that is research reserved for another post.
Keep alert and always read the fine print...in any contract.
Also, please remember AUAF (American University of Afghanistan) faculty members Kevin King (USA) and Tim Weeks (Australia) who were kidnapped in August 2016, and are still being held hostage. Keep them in your prayers if you would and keep raising awareness of their situation to any members of their/our respective governments to bring them home before they perish. www.fbi.gov/wanted/kidnap/kevin-king (see link below)