Middle East, Regional conflicts, Top Stories

Syrian Kurds hire their first Washington lobbyist to help take on Turkey

The Washington office of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) has hired its first lobbyist amid concerns over US sanctions and continued fallout from Turkey’s invasion in October.

The mission has hired longtime Kurdish advocate Ayal Frank and his firm AF International for the next six months to lobby Congress and the Donald Trump administration, said Sinam Sherkany Mohamad, the US representative of the SDC (the SDC controls an autonomous region in northeastern Syria known as Rojava). The contract, dated July 10, is for $6,000 a month.

The contract is for “government affairs and media relations services” including “advising client on communications strategies, preparing draft communications with government and media, and by arranging for meetings and activities with government and media.”

Mohamad said several issues factored into the group’s decision. These include possible new “Caesar Act” sanctions against Bashar al-Assad‘s regime that could threaten reconstruction in Kurdish-controlled Syria and trade with Damascus; continued attacks by Turkey and Turkish-backed groups against Kurds in northern Syria; and efforts to boost US ties with the Syrian Kurds beyond the SDC’s military wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

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“We need help not only for Caesar sanctions it’s for all the issues in the north of Syria,” Mohamad told Foreign Lobby Report. “Still now we have the attack of Turkey against our region. So we want to empower the partnership between the US and the SDC, not just the SDF on the military side.”

Mohamad said her office was proud of the relationships it has built with Congress and the administration since it first registered as a foreign agent in January 2018. But she said the Turkish invasion into northern Syria, which sparked accusations that the US had abandoned a crucial ally in the fight against the Islamic State, came as a shock.

Many friends of the Kurds since then have encouraged the SDC to hire a lobbyist, she said. The group eventually agreed to hire Frank, a longtime advocate for the Kurds who represented Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) at Qorvis/MSL Group and now represents the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan via his own firm.

“He is a friend of the Kurds,” Mohamad said. “I came to know him through all these groups.”

In addition to representing Kurdish group, Frank last month also registered as a lobbyist for Iranian dissidents who favor regime change in the country, as we first reported June 23.

Update: This story was updated at 7:05 a.m. on July 28 with additional information about the contract after it was made public.