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Iran opposition hires top lobbying firm in fight against nuclear deal; ex-Trump liaison lobbies on Pakistan bill; Congress taps foreign agent for hearing on Colombia protests

Iran opposition hires top lobbying firm BGR in fight against nuclear deal

The main Iranian opposition group has tapped one of Washington’s top lobbying and public relations firms as it pulls out all the stops to prevent the Joe Biden administration from negotiating a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has hired BGR Government Affairs to promote the group’s annual summit next month. The $40,000 contract lasts from June 24 through the end of July but can be extended.

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Nigerian separatist’s arrest sparks lobbying emergency

News that the leader of a banned separatist group had been arrested and extradited to Nigeria has sparked a lobbying emergency in Washington. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has lobbied the US government on human rights and independence for Nigeria’s predominantly Christian southeast since October 2019, first via Mercury Public Affairs until this March and now with the BW Global Group of partners Jeffrey Birrell and Alan White.

Birrell said he had been in touch with the State Department and Congress about the latest developments. The State Department had no immediate response. Kanu’s group hired BW in February for $750,000 through February 2022 to lobby Congress and the State Department on the “promotion of human rights and democracy” in Nigeria. 

“This is a dynamic situation that could have grave consequences in terms of human life,” Birrell, a longtime Africa lobbyist, told Foreign Lobby Report. “We don’t know all of the details surrounding the thuggish actions of the Nigerian Security Forces which acted, in a third country, against Mr. Kanu, a British citizen. We hope that the US will make its position clear regarding this unlawful abduction and assert support for Mr. Kanu’s universal human rights.”


Lobbying news

Asia

Pakistan: A former congressional liaison for Donald Trump‘s 2016 campaign who later lobbied the administration on behalf of then-Congolese President Joseph Kabila is now representing Pakistani interests. Adnan Jalil has registered his firm Alpha Strategies as a lobbyist for the Council on Pakistan Relations, a Washington nonprofit started by Michigan-based Pakistan-American healthcare entrepreneurs Mohammad Ashraf Qazi, Adil Jamal Akhtar and Iqbal Abdul Nasir.

Jalil is lobbying for passage of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Economic Development Act, a bipartisan bill from Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). The bill calls for the establishment of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border regions to allow textile and apparel goods from these areas to enter the United States duty-free. “As American troops leave Afghanistan, we have a strong interest in encouraging all parties to achieve a peaceful settlement and political reconciliation that can bring stability to this war-torn and war-weary area,” Van Hollen said in a statement. As a member of the House of Representatives, Van Hollen authored similar legislation that passed in 2009.

Earlier this month, Washington public relations firm Fenton/Arlook registered for the council under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to “inform American and international media about the council’s desire for productive diplomatic and economic relations between Pakistan and the United States.” The firm, which was incorporated this March in Washington, is co-owned by Fenton Communications founder David Fenton and Fenton advocacy campaigns chief Ira Arlook. According to the registration, Fenton/Arlook has a six-month verbal agreement with the council for $25,000 per month plus out of pocket expenses such as travel.

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Europe

United Kingdom: Fish & Richardson principal Teresa Lavoie left the Boston law firm on March 31. She had been a registered foreign agent for the British Department for International Trade helping with its negotiations on a post-Brexit free trade deal. The firm was tapped to work on intellectual property matters in May 2020 but had not started as of May 31, 2021. Bloomberg reports that a deal is likely years away as the Joe Biden administration shifts focus.

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Middle East

Qatar: Former US ambassador to Qatar Charles Untermeyer is serving as a liaison between the Consulate General of Qatar and an effort by MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to obtain Qatari funding for a radiotherapy facility in Gaza, according to a lobbying disclosure for the six months through May.

Saudi Arabia: Aramco Americas President and CEO Nabeel al-Afaleg of Houston, Texas has registered as a foreign agent. He is expected to “assist Saudi Aramco and the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in investment outreach and public relations activities to help promote economic activity and cultural understanding with Saudi
Arabia.”


New business lobbying

Iberdrola: Spanish electric utility Iberdrola has hired the Bighorn Public Affairs Group to lobby on the proposed Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts. Firm founder Jennifer Johnson, a former aide to former Senate Republican Whip Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and House Natural Resources Committee member Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), is the only registered agent on the account. Vineyard Wind 1 would be the first commercial scale offshore wind farm in the United States. Former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham registered his Abraham Group as a lobbyist for the Spanish company last summer, with Blank Rome Government Affairs joining in as a subcontractor. 

Uniper: Chicago-based Uniper Global Commodities North America has registered an in-house lobbying arm, effective June 1. Vice President for Communications & Government Relations David Slack will lobby on “legislative and regulatory issues related to Uniper and its work in energy supply, services, and management in the United States.” The company is a subsidiary of Germany’s Uniper, one of five energy companies with which Nord Stream 2 AG has signed financing agreements for the construction of a natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

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New lobbying filings

Afghanistan: Jake Perry + Partners for Afghanistan-U.S. Democratic Peace and Prosperity Council / six-month filing through May 31 (pdf).

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Marshall Islands: Oliver Group / six-month filing through June 30 (pdf).

Nagorno Karabakh: Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the USA / six-month filing through May 31 (pdf).

Saudi Arabia: Aramco Affiliated Services Company / six-month filing through May 31 (pdf).

Scotland: Scottish Enterprise / six-month filing through May 31 (pdf).


Caught our eye

One of the witnesses at tomorrow’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on the ongoing protests in Colombia is a registered foreign agent for another South American country with a personal stake in US policy in the region. Jose Cardenas, a principal with the Cormac Group, represents the government of Guyana, which like Colombia has a border dispute with Venezuela. A former acting assistant administrator for Latin America and Caribbean at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under President George W. Bush, Cardenas lobbied the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year to press the Joe Biden administration not to abandon the Donald Trump administration’s hard line on Cuba and Venezuela.

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