Saturday, August 25, 2007

GOP Fingers In Iraqi Pie

Maybe this is how our government has always worked. Maybe I’m being naive. But personally I am alarmed to learn that a GOP lobbying firm has taken on former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi as a client, and they are using former administration security officials to lobby Congress and the Washington media elite to promote Allawi over current Iraqi PM al-Maliki.

Well, that explains why I’ve been hearing so much anti-Maliki rhetoric in the MSM lately.

Allawi, of course, was the interim Iraq PM who was defeated in the 2005 elections. Iraqi voters gave Allawi a purple finger in 2005 but democracy, shemocracy. Who cares about elections? He’s hired a bunch of former Bush Administration officials to help him get back into power where he thinks he belongs.

But gee, wasn’t it just last week that President Bush said this:
"Prime Minister Maliki's a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him," Mr. Bush said in a speech to military veterans.

"And it's not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C., to say whether he will remain in his position," Mr. Bush said. "It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship."

Democracy, fuck yeah! Ain’t it grand!

Maybe President Bush can to tell Philip Zelikow, former foreign policy consultant to Condoleezza Rice, to quit meddling in the affairs of the “democratically elected” Iraqi government, then. Zelikow works for the GOP lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, (yes, as in former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the firm’s founder), which has a six-month, $300,000 contract to promote Allawi.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote, Zelikow has been hawking his pro-Allawi message all over ABC News --without revealing he was paid by Allawi to do so. Ooops.

And then there’s this little gem from Thursday’s press gaggle:

Q Gordon, can I ask -- a Republican lobbying firm, Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, has now signed on as a client to former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi, and they're promoting him as a potential alternative to Maliki. They're starting to lobby members of Congress and their staff, saying Maliki is basically not the answer.

Is the White House concerned about allies, Republican lobbyists, allies of the White House lobbying against Maliki, essentially? And is the White House at all involved in this -- publicly saying you support Maliki -- privately, are you giving any sort of a wink and nod to Allawi that he could be an alternative?

MR. JOHNDROE: To your second part, no. Decisions about the Iraqi government are going to be made by the Iraqis in Iraq. This is an elected government right now. If former Prime Minister Allawi is interested in become Prime Minister again, that would be an issue that he would need to take up with the Iraqi people, probably best taken up in Baghdad rather than Washington, D.C. So I just --

Q But if the President keeps saying that Maliki is the answer and he thinks he's got the best chance of political reconciliation, why would Republican lobbyists want to undermine what the President is saying publicly?

JOHNDROE: Maybe it's a really good contract.

Maybe it was a good contract? Are you kidding me? If it’s private enterprise, it's OK? If someone is making money off of it, it's OK? Even if it undermines our foreign policy, even if it tries to unseat an “elected” head of state in the “sovereign” nation of Iraq? If these were Democrats pushing for this kind of regime change, we’d be hearing calls of treason. But it's Republicans, and someone is making $300,000 off of it. IOKIYAR.

It gets better. It’s since come out that the person working Allawi’s account at Barbour, Griffith & Rogers is none other than Robert Blackwill, former presidential envoy for Iraq and the guy who basically created the Iraqi government. From Friday’s press gaggle:

Q What does that say about the President's policy that one of his former deputy national security advisors is now working against Maliki?

MR. JOHNDROE: Far be it for me to judge why people sign contracts for whatever reason. I'm sure they have a desire to help out their client. But they're former administration officials; administration policy remains unchanged. There is a sovereign, elected government with Prime Minister Maliki and the presidency council. They are working to come up with some sort of political accommodation in Baghdad and that's where things stand in reality on the ground.

Yeah, well, until a bunch of Bush allies are successful in unseating that government.

You can only ignore the ramifications of this for so long. Either President Bush is lying, and he doesn’t support Maliki but he wants to continue with the charade that Iraq has some kind of sovereign, democratically elected government, or he can’t control his own party. Either way, it doesn’t look good.

[UPDATE]: Thanks for playing along, CNN:

Lineups for today’s TV news shows:•CNN’s “Late Edition,” 10 a.m. — Guests: Former Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat; Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican; Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, No. 2 U.S. military commander in Iraq; former senator Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat.

(h/t, (Atrios)

[UPDATE 2]: TPM has tracked down all of BGR’s Iraq-related lobby contracts and it’s a bit of a shocker. Even more shocking:

It's not just Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and it's not just Ayad Allawi. Ten different U.S. firms are registered through the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act database as having active contracts with various Iraqi factions.

BGR is by a large margin the powerhouse firm representing Iraqi clients. Holding a contract that will be worth $100,000 come September 9 is the much smaller Focus on Advocacy and Advancement of International Relations, run by a certain Muthanna al-Hanooti out of Dearborn and Washington D.C. Since September 13, 2006, Hanooti has represented the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest constituent part of the larger Sunni parliamentary bloc, known as the Tawafuq.

So Iraq's Sunni's are also lobbying the U.S. Congress and media. I have to wonder if this has had any bearing on the anti-Shia rhetoric we've been hearing in the press.