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August 17, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10758

Former Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim – 'The Thief Of Doha' – Recounts Personal Memories In Video Interviews

August 17, 2023
Qatar | Special Dispatch No. 10758

In January-March 2022, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas posted on its website a long series of video interviews with Hamad bin Jasim, Qatar's former prime minister and foreign minister.  Published as part of Al-Qabas' "Black Box" show,[1] the series comprises 60 interviews, each of them 30-40 minutes long, focusing mainly on reminisces and anecdotes from bin Jasim's years in office. Parts of the interviews were also posted on the YouTube channels of the newspaper and of the interviewer, Ammar Taqi.

Bin Jasim served as Qatar's foreign minister and prime minister until 2013, when Qatar's emir at the time, Hamad bin Khalifa Aal Thani, transferred power to his son, the present emir Tamim bin Hamad. With the advent of the new emir, bin Jasim was removed from both positions. This resulted in tension between him and the present emir, to the extent that in May 2020 bin Jasim was reportedly accused of planning a coup against the emir. [2]

If Oil Was Sold By Jews, It Would Have Been The Most Expensive Thing In The World

In an interview posted on January 28, 2022, bin Jasim made an antisemitic remark, saying, “Imagine oil [was sold] by some Jews…what would be the price of a barrel of oil? It would be the most expensive thing in the world. It would be more precious than anything, like medicine.”

Bin Jasim's Nickname In Doha Is "The Thief Of Doha"

In an interview posted on March 16, 2023 on the YouTube channel of interviewer Ammar Taqi, bin Jasim recounted an event in which his boss, then-Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, mentioned jokingly that his (bin Jasim's) nickname in Qatar was "the Thief of Doha."  

Hamad bin Jasim: "I was in a car with [Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak] and Sheikh Hamad [bin Khalifa Aal Thani]. Sheikh Hamad was driving the car and Hosni Mubarak and I were sitting in the back, behind Sheikh Hamad… Sheikh Hamad said [to Mubarak]: 'Do you know what we call Hamad bin Jasim here in Doha?' … [He said:] 'Do you know [the movie] The Thief of Baghdad? We call him, Hamad [bin Jasim], the Thief of Doha.' Hosni Mubarak thought that was hilarious and he started laughing nonstop. He was very pleased. To tell you the truth, I was not pleased with this joke… Sheikh Hamad would say such things, because he could see what could make people happy."

The Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' published a leaked audio recording in which Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, speaking to an unknown interlocutor, referred to the same incident:

Mubarak's interlocutor: "Qatari Emir [Hamad bin Khalifa] stepped down today in favor of his son, [Tamim]. Hamad bin Jasim is powerful, what will they do with him? He is Prime Minister and Foreign Minister."

Mubarak: "Sheikha Moza [the wife of Hamad bin Khalifa and the mother of Tamim] doesn’t like him."

Mubarak's interlocutor: "Will she dismiss him?"

Mubarak: "Maybe he’ll stay on for a while. The Emir [Hamad bin Khalifa] treats Hamad like a rag. I was sitting with him in a car one day, and [Hamad bin Khalifa] said [to him]: 'You are the thief of Doha.'"

Mubarak's interlocutor: "To Hamad [bin Jasim]?"

Mubarak: "Yes. The Thief of Doha… He calls him the Thief of Doha."

Mubarak's interlocutor:" So why does he keep him if he does not like him?"

Mubarak: (unintelligible)[3]

Yemeni President 'Ali 'Abdullah Saleh Gets A Plane For Free

In another interview, posted on the Al-Qabas TV YouTube channel, [4] bin Jasim related another anecdote, how Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa once gave away bin Jasim's plane to the president of Yemen at the time, 'Ali 'Abdullah Saleh:

Hamad bin Jasim: "At the summit I lost something I can mention. Before the summit [then Yemeni president] 'Ali ['Abdullah] Saleh said to me (we had a personal relationship because of the civil war in Yemen):[5] 'Hamad, I do not own a plane. I need a plane to get to Egypt.' At the time I had a private plane, an old [Boeing] 747, that I had bought and renovated. He said, 'I want you to take me there and bring me back.' I said okay. I brought him to the summit. Sitting and talking to [then Qatari emir] Sheikh Hamad [bin Khalifa, Saleh] said to him: 'I came here in the plane of Hamad [bin Jasim].' Sheikh Hamad [bin Khalifa] said: 'Don't give it back to him. Keep it!'"

Interviewer: "There goes your plane."

Hamad bin Jasim: "We sat down and the summit began. He [Hamad bin Khalifa] sat down. I said to him, 'I saw you joking with 'Ali Saleh.' He replied, 'Yes, I gave him your plane.'"

Interviewer: "Kiss your plane goodbye."

Hamad bin Jasim: "I replied, 'You don't say?' He answered, 'Enough, the cameras are rolling now.' In other words, 'Drop the subject and stop talking about it.' And so I lost my plane.

Interviewer: "He actually took it?!"

Hamad bin Jasim: "He actually took it."

Interviewer: "And never gave it back?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "And never gave it back."

The Bulgarian Nurses Affair

In an interview posted on March 9, 2022, bin Jasim referred to the affair of the Bulgarian nurses who were jailed in Libya[6] He states that Qatar paid Libya 480 million euros in public funds to release the nurses.

Interviewer: "Qatar played a role in [resolving] the Bulgarian nurses crisis."

Hamad bin Jasim: "Yes, we did play a role. The wife of the French president traveled [to Libya] to get them released."

Interviewer: "The wife of [then French President Nicola] Sarkozy."

Hamad bin Jasim: "Yes, Cecelia was his wife back then. I was at my summer home in Cannes. The French president called me and said, 'I have a problem. They [the Libyans] are demanding money, although they are promising to return it. It's just because Qadhafi took an oath or something, we should pay them money.'"

 Interviewer: "[Pay] for the release of the Bulgarian [nurses]?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "Yes, and the money would be given back within 72 hours. It was just because of [Qadhafi's] oath. I thought it was strange, but asked what was needed. He said, 'In France I can't just give this money and then have it given back. Maybe you could [do it].' I said okay. I talked to the Libyan intelligence chief, [Qadhafi's brother-in-law 'Abdallah] Senussi, and then to [Qadhafi's son] Sayf Al-Islam and the Libyan Prime Minister. They all promised me that the check would not be cashed. They would only show it to Qadhafi and then give it back."

Interviewer: "How much was it?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "It was 480 million euros, I'm sad to say... In any case, the check is gone. They took it and cashed it in. Ever since then, we've been asking..."

Interviewer: "Qatar wrote the check?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "Yes. We have been saying that they should pay it back with interest, because these were public funds and the intention was to resolve the problem, considering [our] excellent relations with France."

Qatar Had Journalists On Its Payroll In Different Countries

In an interview posted on February 26, 2022, Hamad Bin Jasim said that Qatar had many journalists in different countries" on its payroll," and that some of them became MPs in their countries. He added that most Arab countries were doing this.

Hamad bin Jasim :"We had journalists on our payroll."

Interviewer: "What do you mean?"

Hamad bin Jasim :"We would pay them. Some of them have become MPs now. Others have become patriots. I know them. We would pay [journalists] in many countries. We would pay them every year. Some of them received salaries. All the Arab countries were doing this. If not all, then most of them."

Bin Jasim Describes First Meeting With Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah: It Was A Good Meeting, We Were Not Against Them

In an interview published by Al-Qabas on April 28, 2022, bin Jasim said that his first meeting with Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, which took place after the 2006 Lebanon War, had been a "good meeting." [7] He explained that Qatar had requested the meeting as part of efforts to advance its activities in Lebanon, adding: "We were not against them."

Interviewer: "What was the reason for the meeting [with Nasrallah] and what kind of arrangements were made? Was it the first time you met him?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "Yes, that was the first time… There were negotiations between our security agencies and those of Hizbullah, because there were reservations about how the meeting would be held."

Interviewer: "Whose idea was it? Who called the meeting?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "I think we asked to meet him, because we were trying to expediate [our] activity in Lebanon. I think so. We received indications from them that [Nasrallah] also wanted to see me, because following Qatar's position in the Security Council... As soon as he took his seat. He thanked Qatar and [expressed appreciation for] its position."

Interviewer: "Qatar's position in 2006?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "In 2006 or 2007. In the Security Council following the Israeli invasion…

"The meeting was friendly. It was a good meeting."

Interviewer: "How did he welcome you?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "It was excellent. We were not against them. There was still the issue of South Lebanon, our position in the Security Council, and all the Qatari aid in South Lebanon... He was grateful for this position."

Interviewer: "Did he ask anything specific of you?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "No."

Interviewer: "So the meeting as just to make acquaintance?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "No, we discussed some solutions for Lebanon we were working on. It was only for the sake of Lebanon's interest."

Iran Is Not Our Enemy; The Russians Are Reliable Allies

Referring to Iran in an interview posted on February 10, 2022, bin Jasim said he was against describing Iran as an enemy of Qatar or the Gulf states.

Hamad bin Jasim: "I am against turning Iran into our enemy. Iran did not attack the GCC countries."[8]

Interviewer: "It didn’t?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "It did not attack the GCC. It did not attack Qatar. This is a simple example. It did not attack or threaten us. So why would I be hostile to Iran? I have disagreements with Iran on many issues, that’s true, but this does not mean that Iran is an enemy of mine."

In Interview No. 18, posted on January 31, 2022, he referred to the Russians, saying that they are similar to the Arabs and are reliable allies:

Hamad bin Jasim: "The Russians are similar to us Arabs. I believe that if you establish friendly relations with them, you can rely on them. I know people in Russia. I have friends there. If the relationship is firm and clear, and if the Russians trust you as a partner in this firm relation, they are reliable. Now the Russians are consolidating their diplomatic reliability, in light of the corrosion in the reliability of the other parties. "

Qadhafi And The Libyan Nuclear Program

Bin Jasim also related a conversation he had with Libya's former ruler Mu'ammar Qadhafi about Libya's nuclear program, in Interview No. 42, posted on February 24, 2022:

Hamad bin Jasim: "Later the surprising issue of Libya's nuclear [program] or facilities came to light."

Interviewer: "What came to light?"

Hamad bin Jasim: "That the West had discovered the existence of parts of a nuclear reactor that had not been delivered [to Libya] but were supposed to be [delivered]. So we started talking to Qadhafi. At first he denied the whole thing. But then came the day of Saddam [Hussein's] capture. I got a phone call saying, 'President Qadhafi wants to meet you.' I went to him. I met him alone for a long dinner in his tent… He said, 'I had already informed them [the West] that we had located the remaining [materials pertaining to our nuclear program] and would hand them over.' I said to him: 'Brother Colonel [Qadhafi]!' (I used to call him 'president' but he would say, 'I'm not a president'). 'You handed it over?! You shouldn't have handed it over like that. You could have at least let us set up some talks [between you and the West] and made some achievements in your relations with the West." But he delivered everything in planes in a single day.'"   

 

[1] The show features interviews with prominent public figures, such as the former president of Iraq, Tariq al-Hashimi (2006-2012), and former Kuwaiti MP and academic Abdullah Al-Nafisi.

[2] Youm7.com, May 6, 2020.

[3] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), September 16, 2013.

[5] The reference is to the Yemeni civil war that took place in May-July 1994 between the Yemeni republican forces, headed by 'Ali Abdullah Saleh, and separatist south Yemeni forces headed by Salem Al-Beidh. The latter had been the president of South Yemen before it united with the north in 1990. Most of the Gulf states, chief of them Saudi Arabia, supported the separatists, whereas Qatar supported 'Ali 'Abduallah Saleh. 

[6] In 1999 five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian medical intern were arrested in Libya on charges of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with HIV. The six, who apparently confessed to the crimes under torture, were initially sentenced to death but their sentences were later commuted to life in prison. They were released in 2007 in a deal between Libya and the EU.

[7] Hizbullah has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization since the 1990s.

[8] Contrary to this claim, the Iran has staged multiple attacks on GCC countries by means of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen—a militia that is backed and armed by Iran and acts upon its instructions. The Houthis attacked the Aramco facilities in Saudi Arabia in 2019. They also targeted Saudi and Emirati oil, water, and electric facilities in March 2022, and attacked smaller targets in 2017 and 2018. Moreover, in August 2018, Gen. Naser Sha'bani, a top official of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), admitted that the Iranian regime had ordered the Houthi militia to attack two Saudi tankers, and that it had carried out those orders (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7612, Statements By Top IRGC Official Gen. Sha'bani Published By Fars News Agency: 'We Told The Yemenis To Attack The Two Saudi Tankers, And They Attacked', August 7, 2018).

According to a Western news report, Qatar had advance knowledge about Iran’s attacks on Saudi, Norwegian and UAE vessels but kept the information to itself (Foxnews.com, November 16, 2019).

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