DATAPOINTS

$1.1 Million

LOBBYING SPEND (2018)

6

LOBBYING/PR FIRMS

21

REGISTERED AGENTS

AL-MONITOR
LOBBYING RANK

#7 (tie)

Kurdistan Regional Government - US Liaison Office

Registered: 2006

NEW Registered agent
Barzan Ardalan

NEW Supplemental
(Jan. 1, 2019 to June 30, 2019)
Budget: $1.9 million
Meetings:
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and other lawmakers

The KRG's liaison office in Washington has hired a new director of consular and community affairs. Barzan Ardalan will be paid $7,000 a month to assist with “issuing visa(s), diploma authentication, birth certificate(s), power of attorney, company registration(s), meetings, translation and interpretations and other businesses related to consular services.”

The office received almost $1.9 million from Erbil in the first half of the year. The office in turn paid out almost $895,000 to its slew of lobbying firms: $386,000 to Greenberg Traurig; $273,000 to BGR; and $236,000 to Dentons. During that time, the office held numerous meetings with lawmakers and State and Defense department officials on issues including the budget, national security and religious freedom. The office notably reached out to Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Jan. 7 to share its “concerns” over President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US forces from Syria, leaving the Kurds exposed to both Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Turkey. The following month, the liaison office helped secure meetings with at least 19 lawmakers for visiting KRG Minister of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa Bakir.

Iraqi Kurds battle for US relevance after defeating Islamic State

Editor

Julian Pecquet

@JPecquet_ALM

jpecquet@al-monitor.com
bookmark

Julian Pecquet is the Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

Posted: September 11, 2019

The Iraqi Kurds are spending big to remain relevant in Washington following the back-to-back demise of their deadliest foe and their greatest advocate.

The Kurdistan Regional Government spent just under $1.1 million on five lobbying firms last year to avoid a repeat of the United States’ precipitous 2011 withdrawal following the defeat of the Islamic State. At the same time, Erbil is scrambling to deepen ties on Capitol Hill and the Donald Trump administration after the death last summer of their greatest champion, former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz.

“Sen. McCain will be missed not only by his family, colleagues and the people of America,” said the KRG’s US representative Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman in a condolence message, “but also by a people in a faraway land called Kurdistan, a place that he visited many times and that he stood by, even after illness struck.”

The outreach is spearheaded by Greenberg Traurig and BGR Government Affairs, which were paid a combined $500,000 last year. Lobbyists for Erbil repeatedly reached out to McCain’s successor on the Armed Services Panel, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., in the first part of this year, while blanketing congressional staff and State Department officials with email requests.

Meanwhile, the KRG’s Interior Ministry has continued to press its case for the international community to help the semi-autonomous region deal with an influx of displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. The ministry hired the strategic consultancy PASS last year to help convene an international donors conference for Iraqi Kurdistan and paid it a little more than $477,000 in 2018. Those plans have yet to pan out but the KRG did present its own investment projects at a Kuwaiti pledging conference for all of Iraq in February.

Separately, the KRG’s Washington office has continued to actively lobby top lawmakers, including setting up interviews with visiting Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir with Senate Foreign Aid Spending Panel Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as well as the top Democrats on Armed Services and Foreign Relations, Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Meanwhile, Erbil has ramped up funding for the US mission, disbursing $1.9 million in the first half of this year — more than the $1.89 million received from Erbil in all of 2018. A spokesman for the Washington office told Al-Monitor that the increased transfers are meant to make up for past budgeting shortfalls as the KRG suffered a financial crisis in recent years.

The outreach has paid dividends. Earlier this year, the Washington office notably helped convince House lawmakers to include language in their version of annual defense legislation urging continued US support for the KRG’s armed forces, the peshmerga, “in order to continue to develop their capabilities, promote security sector reforms, and enhance sustainability and interoperability with the other elements of the Iraqi security forces in order to provide for Iraq’s lasting security against terrorist threats.”

In addition, the Washington liaison office shared its concerns about Trump’s planned troop withdrawal from Syria with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. The country is worried that US disengagement from the region would weaken the US-backed Syrian Kurds in the country’s northeast and allow regional powers such as Turkey to fill the void, sending yet more refugees streaming across the border.

Despite its partial pullout from Syria, the US military is doubling down on support for Iraqi Kurdish forces. The Pentagon’s budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 seeks funding to modernize 12 peshmerga brigades, including $126 million in stipends for food and fuel and $123.4 million in maintenance support.

HIGHLIGHTS

Main lobbying firm:
PASS

 

 

$1.1 million

Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018

 

 

WINS
  • Pentagon seeks to modernize 12 peshmerga brigades
  • House bill calls for continued US support
  • Erbil makes up Washington budgeting shortfall
LOSSES
  • KRG fails to convene donor conference
  • US eager to pull out after ISIS defeat
  • Kurdish champion John McCain dies

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Laborum nesciunt ipsum dolore error repellendus officiis aliquid a, vitae reprehenderit, accusantium vero, ad. Obcaecati numquam sapiente cupiditate. Praesentium eaque, quae error!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Perferendis, maiores.