How a Ransom for Royal Falconers Reshaped the Middle East

A8K

Ball Boy
Oct 22, 2016
651
90
#2
Nice script for a movie.. comes back full circle to recent Tillerson's ousting too.

"(Falcons are some of the fastest birds in the world; the Peregrine Falcon is believed to be the fastest animal on earth, reaching speeds of up to 240MPH during a dive). Today, Qataris continue falconry in an effort to preserve their culture. UNESCO even added falconry to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List for Middle Eastern culture. Starting price for a Falcon at a petshop is under $10k in Qatar. The sport of falconry, “the art of training hawks to hunt in cooperation with a person,” is generally believed to have originated in Persia and the Mongolian steppes around 4000 B.C. Qtar is investing in falconry for both tourism and heritage.”

One can copy and paste off NYT site into own local word processor right before NYT subscription pops on screen limiting viewing.. article too long to post into one post here as ISP limitations kick in. heres a taste;

best story read in the longest. story of Qatari elites to be held captive in Iraq for 16 months while in hunt for falcons, given a single qoran and being bargaining pawns for a four towns swap of shiites and sunnis across Syria all devised by Suleimani.. Original $360 (plus minus $50 mil counted to ensure saftey of migration of Sunnis across two towns) mil ransom initially confiscated at Baghdad airport was duplicated via Beirut right in the hands of Suleimani in exchange of Qataris article claims.

Only harram money seem to have ended in the hands of a Greek shoe saleman, a self-claimed broker in the tune of $2 mil which didnt get anywhere, am sure his head will be handed to his love-ones at some point..

. On April 15 last year, a Qatari man arrived in the V.I.P. terminal on an evening flight from his country’s capital city, Doha. After identifying himself as a senior government envoy, he announced that he and his 14 colleagues, all dressed in crisp white ankle-length tunics called thobes, did not want their luggage inspected. The Qataris had brought 23 identical black duffels, a small peninsula of black nylon that covered a sizable portion of the lounge’s hardwood floor. Each bag was so heavy — well over 100 pounds — that the porters had trouble rolling them into the room.

The Iraqis insisted, politely, that all bags must be screened, even in the V.I.P. terminal. The leader of the Qatari team was visibly shocked to hear this. He asked for time. The Qataris huddled for a quiet discussion and then made a number of phone calls. Eventually, they relented and allowed the bags to be screened. Each of them contained stacks of bricklike squares, wrapped in black tape that the scanner could not penetrate. When customs officials asked what was under the tape, the Qataris refused to say. The standoff lasted all night, and finally, near dawn, the exasperated Qataris gave in and drove to Baghdad without their luggage. It was only later that the Iraqis opened the 23 duffels and discovered a mix of dollars and euros, amounting to some $360 million. The bills alone weighed more than 2,500 pounds.

A week later, the money still impounded, the Qatari team left Baghdad in the same jet that had brought them. They were now accompanied by two dozen Qataris, including members of the ruling Al Thani family, who had been kidnapped during a hunting trip in southern Iraq 16 months earlier. The story of what happened on that trip has not been reported until now. It entails a ransom deal of staggering size and complexity in which the Qataris paid vast sums to terrorists on both sides of the Middle East’s sectarian divide, fueling the region’s spiraling civil wars.
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To Arab falconers, the houbara bustard — a bug-eyed, long-legged creature about the size of a large chicken — is the king of game birds. It is a fast flier with an unusual defense: When cornered, it vomits an oily green substance that can temporarily blind an attacking falcon or hobble its wings. In the days before oil was discovered in the Arabian desert, the houbara’s seasonal return every fall was met with celebratory poetry and long hunts on camelback. The Land Rover made things a lot easier, but chasing the houbara, whose stringy flesh is said to be an aphrodisiac, remains one of the hallowed pursuits — along with thoroughbred stallions, huge yachts and French chateaus — that occupy the minds of Persian Gulf royalty.

In late November 2015, a large group of Qatari falcon hunters left Doha in a column of 4-by-4 vehicles and headed south....
Crossing the Saudi border, the convoy turned north, traversing a portion of Kuwait and continuing on to their destination, the southern desert of Iraq, 450 miles from Doha. The group was composed of several dozen people, including servants, and was led by nine members of Qatar’s ruling family, the Al Thanis, one of the wealthiest dynasties on earth. The hunting ground the Qataris had chosen — Iraq’s Muthanna Province — has had few visitors since the American invasion of 2003. The desert is littered with cluster bombs and mines left over from three decades of intermittent war. With ISIS reigning across much of the north and undisciplined Shiite militias running rampant elsewhere, Iraq was hardly a desirable tourist destination. But this particular stretch of land, almost devoid of people, had become a seasonal haven for the houbara. The Qataris had heard tantalizing reports about a rebounding population, and despite warnings about the potential for danger, they could not resist the chance. For the next three weeks, the hunters meandered through the desert with their hired Iraqi guards, occasionally doling out extravagant gifts to passing Bedouins to ensure their safety.

article deserves a read but LMFAO to this part;

They (Qatari falcon hunters) found themselves on the floor, handcuffed and blindfolded, lurching painfully against other bound bodies every time the speeding van hit a bump. At some point, one kidnapper turned back toward the hostages and began saying crude and insulting things about Aisha, the third wife of the Prophet Muhammad. In the Arab world, this sort of insult is a dead giveaway. Sunnis revere Aisha, but Shiites revile her as a traitor who fought against Ali, the foundational figure of Shiite tradition. Abu Mohammed and his fellow hostages instantly understood they were in the hands of Shiite militiamen, not ISIS or any other jihadi group..
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A8K

Ball Boy
Oct 22, 2016
651
90
#3
Almost a year later, the effects of the Qatari ransom deal can still be felt, from Doha to Washington. The four towns in Syria are mostly empty — a few hundred stubborn people cling to their homes in the Shiite towns up north, and some remain in Madaya and Zabadani. The jihadi rebels in Syria also continue their battle, yielding a steady trickle of battlefield death and dismemberment. The deal appears to have deepened the divide between the rebels and the people they claim to represent

But the ransom deal’s heaviest legacy may be back home in the gulf. The Saudis and Emiratis, who had long resented Qatar’s sponsorship of the Muslim Brotherhood, were infuriated by the reports of heavy payments to Shiite militias. On June 5, they initiated a full-scale economic blockade. They issued a draconian list of demands, including the closing of Al Jazeera and a Turkish military facility, and financial reparations for years of supposed wrongs. Although the blockade had been talked about for months, the ransom deal provided a useful pretext.

The ransom also began to figure, often in highly distorted form, in a Saudi-financed P.R. blitz that portrayed Qatar as a fountainhead of terrorism. The anti-Qatar campaign was a patchwork of true and false or questionable claims that only muddied the waters around the ransom and Qatar’s broader culpability in bankrolling Islamist groups. But it seems to have been effective with one very important audience: Donald Trump. Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson struggled to mend the rift between America’s partners in the gulf, Trump undermined him in very public fashion, making clear that he sided entirely with his new Saudi friends. (Trump had been treated to a fawning reception during a visit to Riyadh in May, sword-dancing with the king and appearing in a photo-op with a bizarre glowing orb that generated an endless series of conspiracy theories.) Tillerson grew so frustrated with the interference of Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that he reportedly threatened to resign later in the summer, and had to be coaxed to stay by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and John Kelly, now the White House chief of staff. Tillerson tried again to end the blockade during another visit to the gulf in October, but he got no further.
 
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