Thursday, December 29, 2005

What Are These Lobbyists Doing in Iraq?

What Are These Lobbyists Doing in Iraq?

“Kirkuk is Kurdistan; it does not belong to the Arabs,” Hamid Afandi, the minister of Peshmerga for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the two major Kurdish groups, said in an interview at his office in the Kurdish city of Irbil. “If we can resolve this by talking, fine, but if not, then we will resolve it by fighting.”

- Kurds in Iraqi Army Proclaim Loyalty to Militia

By Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder Newspapers

Read the quote above.

Note once again - closely - that it is a statement from a top representative of the Peshmerga for the Kurdistan Democratic party of Iraq. Note that he is threatening violence if his party doesn’t get its way in negotiations concerning the city of Kirkuk.

“Barbour Griffith & Rogers, was retained by the Kurdistan Democratic Party in July 2004 “to ensure that Iraqi Kurdistan maintains its autonomy from Baghdad in the new Iraq Government, and for the return of oil-rich Kirkuk — which Saddam Hussein had ‘Arabized’ as the capital of the region — to Kurdistan.”

Now read this statement from Turkish columnist Tulin Daloglu that appeared in the Washington Times on December 27:

Robert Blackwill, who served as deputy national security adviser and presidential envoy to Iraq during first Bush administration, sounded surprised at a recent Council of Foreign Relations event when he acknowledged the fact that “[M]ost of the economic development that’s happening in Kurdish Iraq is coming across the Turkish border.” He may be surprised because the lobbying firm he heads, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, was retained by the Kurdistan Democratic Party in July 2004 “to ensure that Iraqi Kurdistan maintains its autonomy from Baghdad in the new Iraq Government, and for the return of oil-rich Kirkuk — which Saddam Hussein had ‘Arabized’ as the capital of the region — to Kurdistan.”

A Washington, D.C . lobbyist is representing the Kurdistan Democratic party of Iraq to ensure that Kirkuk is returned to Kurdistan?!

Is that true?

How far does that representation go?

Who is this lobbyist firm influencing in Congress?

What does it have to do with the decisions that our Representatives make about the war in Iraq?

Is this lobbyist involvement resulting (directly or indirectly) in any degree of violence, international strain, or decisions made about our American troops in the Kirkuk area?

When does any of this become a conflict of national interest?

I’d really like to know.

Read more from Tom Lasseter’s Knight Ridder piece to understand how the political influence in Northern Iraq is working against U.S. Military efforts:

American military officials have said they’re trying to get a broader mix of sects in the Iraqi units. However, Col. Talib Naji, a Kurd serving in the Iraqi army on the edge of Kirkuk, said he would resist any attempts to dilute the Kurdish presence in his brigade. “The Ministry of Defense recently sent me 150 Arab soldiers from the south,” Naji said. “After two weeks of service, we sent them away.

The Barbour Griffith & Rogers International website states:

BGR International (BGRI) specializes in lobbying and communications strategies for governments and businesses seeking assistance in dealing with the often complex U.S. political and business decision-making processes; in promoting international business development and market penetration; in planning political and media campaigns, including public relations, message development, research polling, and advertising; and in analyzing the effects of major foreign policy trends. Success in international politics and business requires knowing the governmental and business decision-makers in Washington and in world capitals, as well as an appreciation of the political, economic, security, cultural and historic forces that shape their decisions.

An article titled Kurds Try To Invest 14 Tons of Cash was posted in the Financial Times over a year ago, on December 10th, 2004 - and it only provides a vague answer as to what this lobbyist’s representation is all about:

A Washington-based lobbying firm with strong ties to the US Republican party has been in talks with international banks to facilitate the placing by the Iraqi Kurds of more than half a billion dollars in cash. The money is part of $1.4bn in Iraqi oil revenues paid in cash by the US-led occupation authority to the Kurds in June 2004, just days before it handed power to an interim Iraqi government.

Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, a firm founded by two senior aides of President George H.W. Bush and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is representing the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Washington. Robert Blackwill, until last month White House chief adviser on Iraq, has also joined the firm.

Ed Rogers, a founding partner, confirmed the firm was working for the Kurds but said it was not managing any money for them. “Know that BGR has no role in managing investments for the Kurds and the only comment about our role that we can make is what is listed in our foreign agent registration filing,” he wrote in an e-mail.

People familiar with the matter say that the firm has made inquiries about investing the cash, which is currently held at a Kurdish bank, in Switzerland. However, the efforts have been delayed as banks make checks on the provenance of the cash….A spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government said the payment was part of $4.5bn in funds it claims the UN owes the region as part of the now defunct oil-for-food programme.

The United States is at war in Iraq today, and it seems that a Washington DC lobbyist firm is reaching into extremely dangerous territory in professionally assisting a foreign power with a political aim such as fighting for the powderkeg known as Kirkuk. The relationship between the high-powered lobbyists of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers and the Bush administration is politically incestuous. The timing of taking on the Kurdistan Democratic party of Iraq as a new client in July 2004 - when just the month before, June 2004, $1.4bn in Iraqi oil revenues was paid to the Kurds in cold hard cash by the US-led occupation authority raises a lot of questions. If these lobbyists aren’t involved in managing Kurdistan investments, what are they doing - and is what they are doing ethical and/or patriotic? Should this lobbyist firm be assisting a foreign political faction that is directly involved in war-time negotiations when our own troops are dying - and while a democratic settlement for a central government in Iraq is being sought by our own government?