Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

Qatar's funding for Hezbollah threatened US troops, report claims

Doha hosts 10,000 American soldiers at Al Udeid base

A US Air Force B-52 bomber arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Reuters
A US Air Force B-52 bomber arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Reuters

Qatar’s financing of weapons to Hezbollah endangered the lives of about 10,000 US troops in the country, Fox News reported on Wednesday.

A private security contractor provided a dossier to the US news outlet revealing that a member of the Qatari royal family had authorised the delivery of military equipment to the group in Lebanon.

Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organisation by the US and the EU. It is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US military personnel in Iraq and Lebanon.

Qatar's Al Udeid military base is home to US Air Force squadrons and a headquarters of US Central Command.

The documents, which Fox News reported had been verified by German intelligence officials, showed in detail how the royal family member had supported Hezbollah since 2017.

The contractor said that Qatar’s ambassador to Belgium and Nato, Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al Khulaifi, tried to cover up the royal family’s role in financing Hezbollah with a bribe of €750,000 (Dh3.2 million/$891,100).

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Lebanon's Hezbollah gestures as he holds a Hezbollah flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A supporter of Lebanon's Hezbollah gestures as he holds a Hezbollah flag in Marjayoun, Lebanon May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

The contractor, referred to as Jason G in the report, gave the false name to protect himself from retaliation over the dossier.

He claimed that he had launched a sting operation with the intention to stopping Qatar from “funding extremists”.

Jason G said the “bad apples need to be taken out of the barrel”.

He said at a meeting with Mr Al Khulaifi in Brussels last year, the ambassador was heard to say “the Jews are our enemies”.

Nathalie Goulet, a French senator who led a Nato report into financing of international terrorism, told The National the allegations in the dossier were “very disturbing”.

Ms Goulet said Qatar had gained a “bad reputation” because of its practices, funding malign groups besides Hezbollah that included the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla pictured during clashes in Beirut in 2006. Reuters
A Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla pictured during clashes in Beirut in 2006. Reuters

She said the possibility of the ambassador acting as a conduit for funding represented a particular challenge.

“The Belgium Ambassador [could] send money to Germany and then Germany would also have these kind of problems,” Ms Goulet said.

“If you don't want to have this kind of extremism, we have to fight and track money because the best way to beat terrorism is to follow the money."

The dossier said two Qatari charities also supplied cash to Hezbollah in Beirut “under the guise of food and medicine”.

They were the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammed Al Thani Charitable Association and the Education Above All Foundation.

Ms Goulet said the international community needed to be watchful, as fresh aid flowed into Beirut after Tuesday’s devastating explosions, that groups such as Hezbollah were not the beneficiaries.

“Large amounts of money, which will arrive in Lebanon, we have to be very, very careful it that will not be misused,” she said.

British MP Ian Paisley Jr, who has also been involved in tracing the financing of terrorist groups, told Fox that Qatar’s conduct was “outrageous”, and that the governments in the UK and Belgium should act decisively.

"These allegations are very serious, particularly given that the ambassador is ambassador to Nato, and this should be investigated and appropriate action taken," Mr Paisley said.

"Hezbollah are a proscribed terrorist group in Britain and working with them can’t be tolerated.

"I will tomorrow contact the UK Foreign Secretary [Dominic Raab] and ask him to investigate these allegations and make representations to the ambassador."

Hezbollah was founded by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Lebanon in 1982 as a proxy militia for Tehran.

It retains close links with Iran and depends on it for financial support.

Updated: August 7, 2020 02:31 AM

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