June 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

Rumors Swirl Over Hamas Move From Qatar to Iraq

June 25, 2024 | Flash Brief

Rumors Swirl Over Hamas Move From Qatar to Iraq

Latest Developments

Hamas may relocate its political headquarters from Qatar to Iraq, unnamed sources told The National on June 24. The Iran-backed group already opened a political office in Baghdad in June and plans to add a media office in the Iraqi capital “in the coming weeks,” the Emirati news outlet noted. According to a senior Iraqi lawmaker with purported ties to Hamas, Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh discussed the terror group’s relocation with Iraqi and Iranian officials in May. The Iraqi lawmaker observed that some Iraqi groups, “especially the Kurds and some Sunnis,” worry that a Hamas move to Iraq “will deepen differences with the United States.” explaining that “there is no consensus among Iraqi political groups on Hamas’s move to Baghdad.” However, “the government’s decision to host Hamas will not be reversed,” the lawmaker added. Hamas later claimed that “there is no truth in the reports” about the group’s plans “to leave Qatar and move to Iraq.”

Asked about reports that Hamas will relocate to Baghdad, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on June 24 that he could not “speak to their validity” but that Washington has “made clear to every government in the region that there should be no more business as usual with Hamas.”

Expert Analysis

“Should Hamas move out of Qatar, that would not absolve Doha of its responsibility for the October 7 attacks or the war that followed. Moreover, should Hamas move to Iraq, that would underscore what we already know: that Iraq’s government is under the sway of the Iranian regime. Hamas would be just one Iranian proxy among many based in Iraq. Finally, it is remarkable to imagine the return of Hamas to Iraq so many years after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which supported Hamas during the Second Intifada against Israel.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“The history of Palestinian terrorist groups has often been marked by an inability to coexist with their neighbors peacefully. This is exemplified by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s exit from Jordan and Lebanon as well as the possible relocation of Hamas’s leadership in Doha. Furthermore, Hamas has long enjoyed support from Iranian-backed militias in Iraq. Still, it is unclear whether this potential move would be a wise or desirable development for the Iraqi government to support.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Qatari Sponsorship Benefits Hamas

Qatar sided with Hamas and endorsed its takeover of Gaza in 2007. Since then, Doha has provided political and financial assistance to the Islamist group, pumping an estimated $1.8 billion into Gaza’s Hamas-run government. Hamas also maintains a political office in Doha, where several of the group’s senior leaders live in luxury.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in November 2023 that Doha “built relations with Hamas in order to maintain peace and stability in the region.” However, under Qatari patronage, Hamas has fought five separate wars against Israel (2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, and 2023). Moreover, a group of veteran American and Israeli intelligence professionals asserted in an April report that Qatar “benefits directly from the bloodshed and geopolitical fallout and unrest that result from its policies,” and that “Qatari funding and policies led directly to October 7.”

U.S. Congress Pressures Qatar Over Hostage Talks

On April 10, U.S. Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced a bill in the Senate “to review and consider terminating” Qatar’s major non-NATO ally status.U.S. Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Jared Golden (D-ME) introduced the companion Reviewing Qatar’s Major Non-NATO Ally Status Actin the House of Representatives on May 10If enacted, the legislation will force the secretary of state to review the U.S.-Qatar relationship and certify that Qatar exerts pressure on Hamas to release the hostages. The legislation also calls on Doha to stop “directly or indirectly” supporting Hamas and expel or extradite to the United States “any individuals determined to be members of Hamas.” If Qatar fails to meet the guidelines, the legislation directs the State Department to terminate Qatar’s major non-NATO ally status. 

In a statement on April 15, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urged Qatar “to make it clear to Hamas that there will be repercussions if it continues to block progress toward releasing the hostages and establishing a temporary ceasefire. Consequences ought to include cutting off funding to Hamas or refusing to grant Hamas’ leaders refuge in Doha.” Should Doha not comply, “the United States must reevaluate its relationship with Qatar,” Hoyer added.

10 Things to Know About Hamas and Qatar,” FDD Insight

Jordan Rejects Hosting Hamas as Pressure Rises on Qatar,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Chief Meets Turkish President, Considers Move From Qatar to Turkey,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power Palestinian Politics U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy