When the scandal involving Qatari hostages broke out recently, it became clear that Qatar did not have strong ties with neither Sunni militant groups, nor the Iranian regime and was forced to pay millions of dollars to Iraqi Shiite militias.
According to, Phillip Smyth, a US-based expert, the militia that benefited the most from this payment of ransom money was Kata’ib Hezbollah (Iraq), which the US government labelled as a terrorist organization in 2009.
Doha betrays allies
Smyth states that the group is “one of the more advanced Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq right now. They pioneered very nasty attacks against the United States using everything from RPG-29s to explosively formed penetrators.”
He has also said that Kata’ib Hezbollah is “one of the most violent and most anti-American of the militias.” When a militia like Kata’ib Hezbollah publicly supports the concept of Wilayat al-Faqih, it implies it is directly placed under Iranian orders.
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Ostensibly being a US ally, Doha breached its pact with Washington by paying a large sum of money in ransom to an enemy of the US, which was used against American interests in the region — other GCC countries, Iraq and Syria.
“Let’s say that there was an Iranian ship with arms that was docking in Doha, and then it was sailing to Yemen. That would present a clear security threat to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and the other Gulf countries... I could definitely see where a security risk would come from that”, he says.
Smyth believes that the US administration did take this issue quite seriously, due to the facilities and interests that Washington currently has in Qatar and other GCC countries.
He adds that Washington had signed security partnership agreements with some of these countries, while the war in Yemen continues with the involvement of the United States and Saudi Arabia.
Hezbollah and Kata’ib al-Imam Ali were both deployed to Syria, and had both fought alongside each other on several different occasions. He emphasized that following the Qatari payment, Hezbollah came out with a new look.
It advanced and developed its public relations and messaging strategies, new social media feeds, and progressive websites (in addition to two highly advanced satellite stations, Al-Itijah and Al-Edbah television networks.)
“These are not groups to just be trifled with. They are core, integral members. Doha had negotiated with Hezbollah in Iraq and the money was ultimately shared between Hezbollah and Kata’ib al-Imam Ali in order to pay for the militants that fight in Syria, along with other militia-related expenses, according to Smyth.
Money used on weapons, media
“Kata’ib Hezbollah is a group that drove rocket-loaded trucks, Ashtar rockets, and the militants would drive them right up to the Saudi border. They had made a little film, a couple of years ago to threaten the Saudis and said that they were going to start shelling border emplacements”, says Smyth.
“I think this was at the time when Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr was executed and Kata’ib al-Imam Ali’s commander, Shibil al-Zaydi, was jailed and released by Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, one year following the US withdrawal from Iraq”, he said.
The US expert wondered to what use $50 million [that Qatar had paid] in ransom was put to — how many people could the militia recruit, or how many weapons could be purchased? He added that Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib al-Imam Ali were both deployed to Syria, and that both fought alongside each other on several different occasions.
Smyth pointed out that these groups understand how to threaten, how to get what they want, and how to extract their end goals, emphasizing that kidnapping was just one of these methods.
Washington should reiterate to Doha that “the United States does not support paying ransom money to kidnappers and tell the Qataris that you paid hostile groups that are against the interest of the US and the regional countries”, Smyth concluded.