The Trump administration has called on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias following revelations about the Gulf state’s dealings with terror groups in the Middle East. US security officials have expressed concern about Qatar’s links to a number of Iranian-sponsored militias, many of them regarded as terrorist organisations by Washington. It follows the disclosure of a number of emails said to be from senior officials in the Qatari government to leading members of groups such as Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militia that operates in southern Lebanon, as wellas senior commanders in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The emails, transcripts of which have been seen by the Sunday Telegraph, show that senior members of the Qatari government are on friendly terms with key figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard such as Qasem Soleimani, the influential head of of the Iranian Quds Force, and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah. Details of these previously undisclosed conversations between Qatari officials and the heads of several Iranian-backed terror groups show that Doha paid hundreds of millions of dollars - one report puts the figure as high as $1 billion - as part of ransom payments to secure the release of hostages held by Shia militias in southern Iraq.
Such payments are in direct contravention to Washington’s long-standing policy of not paying ransom demands to terrorist organisations.
Following US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to pull out the nuclear deal with Iran, the administration is now calling on Qatar to review its relations with Iran, as well as its ties with Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups.
“What these emails show is that a number of senior Qatari government officials have developed cordial relations with senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as well as a number of Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisations,” said a senior US security official.
“At a time when the US government is trying to persuade Iran to end its support for terror groups in the Middle East, we do not believe it is helpful that Qatar continues to have ties with such organisations.”
Washington regards Qatar as an important ally in the war against Islamist-inspired terrorism, and the US based its command headquarters for the recent military campaign to defeat Islamic State (Isil) at Qatar’s Al Udaid air base. The Qataris say they opened communications with Iran and a number of the terror organisations Tehran supports to secure the release of members of the Qatari royal family who were kidnapped while on a hunting expedition in southern Iraq. In one of the emails, that are believed to have been intercepted by foreign governments, a senior Qatari official reports that £50 million was paid to Mr Soleimani in April 2017, while another £25 million was paid to an Iraqi Shia terror organisation that is accused of killing scores of American troops in southern Iraq.