- Syrian opposition renews Washington advocacy
- Israeli government watchdog hires US lawyers
- Azerbaijan lobby takes aim at Armenian PM
Syrian opposition makes US push amid Kurdish gains
The main Syrian opposition is reactivating its Washington presence after a years-long lull amid steady gains by rival Kurdish-led groups both on the ground and in western capitals.
Qutaiba Idlbi, the new head of the US mission of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, or Syrian National Coalition, has registered as a foreign agent of the Turkey-based coalition. A newly disclosed filing with the US Department of Justice indicates that Idlbi plans to lobby US officials while also engaging with the Syrian community in the United States to mobilize support for the opposition’s priorities.
The goal, Idlbi told Foreign Lobby Report in an interview over email, is to convince US decision makers that a political settlement in Syria remains a vital US interest even after the Islamic State, or ISIS, has largely been defeated.
Read the story here.
New foreign lobbying filings (FARA)
Bermuda: Chicago PR firm Kivvit has registered communication associate Claire Shipton on its account with the Bermuda Business Development Agency.
Azerbaijan: Lobbyists for Azerbaijan are distributing a fact sheet to US policymakers that seeks to link the current flare-up with Armenia to what they call a pattern of “provocative actions” since Nikol Pashinyan became that country’s prime minister in May 2018, starting with his visit to the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh on the day after his election. The influence campaign comes as Vice-President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on both sides to de-escalate and for Azerbaijan ally Turkey to stay out of the conflict. Read our deep dive into the two countries’ lobbying war here.
China: Wilson Global Communications reported $94,000 in fees from the Hong Kong-based China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF) in the six months through August. Firm founder Julia Wilson has served as CUSEF’s US liaison since 2010.
Pakistan: Former President Pervez Musharraf‘s US agent contributed $18,100 to Republican candidates in the six months through August: $5,600 to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), $7,500 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and $5,000 to Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers‘ CMR PAC. FSD Pharma CEO Raza Bokhari of Philadelphia has served as a volunteer representative for Musharraf since 2011. He did not disclose any political activities on the former president’s behalf during the period.
Thailand: As part of its lobbying work for the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington in the six months through July, Pilot Rock Global Strategies organized a meeting of the Alliance of GSP Countries. The US envoys of 26 Alliance countries signed a letter to the congressional trade committees on Sept. 8 urging them to renew the Generalized System of Preferences program before it expires on Dec. 31. Pilot Rock reported $38,500 in payments from the embassy’s office of commercial affairs during the period.
Austria: The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber paid the Austrian Trade Commission southern region office in Atlanta $42,000 in the six months through August to “assist Austrian businessmen in the US; prepare business contacts for Austrian companies; and report business opportunities for Austrian companies in the US.”
Russia: Moscow law firm Ivanyan and Partners paid New York law firm BurgherGray $595,00 during the six months through August to provide “written quarterly reports that summarize current events.” The Russian firm founded by Khristofor Ivanyan signed a $125,000-a-quarter contract with California law firm Wilson Keadjian & Browndorf for open source research January 2019 but it was only disclosed with the US Department of Justice in February 2020. BurgherGray took over Wilson Keadjian’s Washington office — and the contract with Ivanyan — when the California firm was dissolved last year.
Israel: Washington law firm Miller & Chevalier has registered attorneys William Barry, Paul Leder and James Tillen as foreign agents for the nonprofit Movement for Quality Government in Israel. They are assisting the group “in connection with its referrals to US authorities of potential violations of US laws impacting governance matters” in Israel. The Israeli group has called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down over accusations of corruption and has defended Israelis’ right to protest his government despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Lebanon: Lebanese President Michel Aoun‘s US adviser Antoine Haddad disclosed meeting with several US State Department officials in the first half of the year but did not name them or provide dates. The meetings were “limited and simply focused on considering ways to improve the relationship between Lebanon and the United States, fighting corruption in Lebanon, and potential ways to assist with the Lebanon economic crisis,” Haddad wrote. Haddad, who lives in Maryland, registered as a pro bono agent for Aoun last year.
In other news
President Donald Trump‘s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court once served as a lawyer for the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Washington Post reports. Amy Coney Barrett was one of five lawyers on a team that petitioned the State Department to remove its terrorist designation of the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK). The Barack Obama administration removed the designation in 2012.
The dovish Foundation for Middle East Peace hosts a panel discussion Thursday morning on the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs’ undercover funding to “train advocates and promote laws targeting boycotts of Israel and settlements.” The panel follows revelations in Israeli media about the effort. You can register here.