- 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.
The Interpreter has a long tortured analogy involving dorm RAs to explain why this is about the US. Here's a shorter one: all parties under discussion had back channel connections to the US. Now they don't. We used to mediate. Now we don't. So now the Iranians and Qataris are swapping towns and ransoms and shit instead of negotiating through backchannels.
Worthy of note: Arab royalty is bugshit about houbara bustards. Saudi Aramco World runs an article on the damn things and the nobility of falconry like every eighth issue. And, since falconry for bustards involves assloads of kit in scary-ass locations, a typical adventure might involve 150 guys, three dozen landrovers and all the shit you need for two weeks in the Panjshir.
After which point you leave all your shit there for the Taliban and get back on the G650.
Multiple times a year.