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For Syrian opposition and US pressure groups








#17 (tie)

US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council
(for Syrian Democratic Council)

Registered: Jan. 2018
2018 receipts: Approximately $96,000-$120,000

NEW Supplemental
(Aug. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020)

Representatives of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) lobbied a dozen US lawmakers regarding “the US troop withdrawal and unexpected policy change” in the days and weeks after Turkey invaded northeastern Syria, according to lobbying disclosures for the six months through January. Ilham Ahmed, the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ political wing, sat in on meetings with seven of them during a weekslong visit to Washington last fall to press the United States to halt the Turkish offensive. Ahmed notably met with Reps. David Trone, D-Md., and Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a 2020 presidential candidate. Earlier in 2019, another presidential candidate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, brought Ahmed as her guest to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
The SDC’s US office also met with officials from the pro-life Family Research Council, which is led by Tony Perkins, the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (the Family Research Council has been a vocal supporter of the Syrian Kurds). The SDC also reported a half-dozen meetings at the State Department, as well as meetings at the Defense Department and Vice President Mike Pence’s office.

Squire Patton Boggs
(for High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition)

Hired: Sept. 2016
2018 fees: $0

NEW Supplemental
(July 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2019)

Squire Patton Boggs did not disclose any lobbying activity on behalf of the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition (terminated in October) in the six-month period ending Dec. 31.

Ballard Partners
(for Citizens for a Secure and Safe America)

Hired: Dec. 2019

NEW Q4 domestic lobbying filing

Hawkish Syria advocacy group Citizens for a Secure and Safe America paid Ballard Partners $20,000 to lobby the White House, including advocating for the “return of Syrian refugees and displaced persons to their homes.”

Americans for a Free Syria

Registered: 2017
2018 fees: $22,000

NEW Q34domestic lobbying filing

Americans for a Free Syria spent $10,000 on in-house lobbying on issues including the passage of new Syria sanctions, legislation requiring that US assistance to the UN not support Bashar al-Assad’s government and a resolution condemning hospital bombings by Russia and Assad’s forces. The sanctions became law when President Donald Trump signed the annual defense authorization act into law in December.

Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting
(for Citizens for a Secure and Safe America)

Hired: Aug. 2019

NEW Q3 domestic lobbying filing

Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting was paid less than $5,000 by Citizens for a Secure and Safe America, a hawkish advocacy group led by Syrian-Americans that is urging US President Donald Trump to stay engaged against Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia in Syria. The firm was hired in mid-August. The only lobbyist on the account is former Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind. Last quarter, Messer lobbied Trump’s office, Vice President Mike Pence’s office, the National Security Council and the State Department.

Ballard Partners
(for Citizens for a Safe and Secure America)

Hired: April 2018
2018 fees: $180,000

NEW Q3 domestic lobbying filing (termination)

Ballard Partners stopped lobbying for the US-based Syria advocacy group, Citizens for a Safe and Secure America, on Sept. 4. The group paid the firm $330,000 since hiring it in April 2018 to advocate for the “promotion of democratic change in Syria.” Lobbyists on the account had included former Donald Trump Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard, former Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin, Sylvester Lukis and Justin Sayfie.

Syrian opposition gives up on Trump


Julian Pecquet



Julian Pecquet is the Editor of Special Projects for Al-Monitor, where he supervises the award-winning Lobbying Tracker as well as managing long-form stories. Before that he covered the US Congress for Al-Monitor. Prior to joining Al-Monitor, Pecquet led global affairs coverage for the political newspaper The Hill.

Posted: September 11, 2019

The Syrian opposition has all but given up on Washington lobbying as President Donald Trump heads to the exits following eight years of war.

The Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee umbrella group cut ties with the New York-based Independent Diplomat at the end of December after more than five years of collaboration. The nonprofit advisory group disclosed only $195,000 in payments from the British government on behalf of the Syrian opposition last year, down from $1.58 million in 2017, and no political activity since July 2018.

Meanwhile, Squire Patton Boggs, which has represented the opposition since 2016, reported no Syria-related payments or activities in all of 2018. (The firm was paid $94,000 in 2017 to advise the opposition “in connection with legal and strategic policy advice and advocacy on foreign policy and related issues in the US government.”)

The drawdown comes as the US government has made clear its disinterest in the Syria file beyond defeating the Islamic State (IS). Trump ordered the withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops in the country in December 2018, but agreed to keep about 400 Americans in February amid misgivings from the State and Defense departments.

Meanwhile, the State Department’s budget request for the coming fiscal year zeroes out last year’s $174.5 million investment in economic and development aid and explosives removal in areas liberated from both the Bashar al-Assad regime and IS and other extremist groups. The Defense Department for its part continues to seek $300 million in train-and-equip funding for what it calls the “Vetted Syrian Opposition” in its fiscal year 2020 budget request.

The bulk of that is expected to go to the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, the commander of the US-led coalition battling IS, warned that US military support would end if the Kurdish fighters partner with Assad.

Even as the Arab-dominated opposition has pulled back, the Syrian Kurds have stepped up their lobbying.

The US Mission of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) — the political wing of the SDF alliance that rules the autonomous region of Rojava in northeast Syria — set up shop in Washington in January 2018 with the mission to ”better equip” its army, “improve the region's counter-terrorism apparatus,” “end the Turkish occupation of Syria,” allow Rojava to operate an international airport and increase humanitarian aid to the region. The group reports receiving $8,000-$10,000 a month from “various Syrian and Kurdish grassroots supporters in the United States” and scored a public relations coup in February when it got Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, to invite visiting Syrian Kurdish leader Ilham Ahmed to the State of the Union as her guest.

One of the SDC’s key asks is US support for the group’s detention of captured IS fighters. The Senate version of pending defense authorization legislation includes such a provision, while the House version does not.

Meanwhile, several US groups continue to support a tough line against Assad’s regime despite the lack of US interest in forcing him out.

The nonprofit Americans for a Free Syria, which advocates for a “free, democratic, and secular Syria,” spent $22,000 last year — and $20,000 in the first half of this year — lobbying Congress and the State, Treasury and Homeland Security departments. The group notably supports sanctions legislation against those responsible for war crimes in Syria that has passed both the House and Senate this year, sanctions against Iranian proxies, legislation barring US reconstruction assistance in areas under Assad’s control and the extension of Temporary Protected Status for Syrians.

Another nonprofit, Citizens for a Secure and Safe America, hired former Trump Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard and his Ballard Partners firm last year to promote “democratic change” in Syria. The firm receives $60,000 per quarter to lobby Congress and the Trump administration on policies to democracy and the return of refugees and displaced people.


Main lobbying firm:
Squire Patton Boggs




Total lobbying and PR spending for 2018



  • Congress includes Caesar sanctions in defense bill
  • Pentagon maintains $300 million request for ‘vetted Syrian opposition’
  • Senate urges US support for detention of IS detainees in Syria
  • Trump pulls US troops out of Syria
  • State Department ends reconstruction funding
  • Syrian opposition drops lobbyist

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