Barbour Griffith & Rogers has long been a powerhouse GOP lobbying firm. Now, apparently, American politics are just too small-time. BGR, according to a report by IraqSlogger's Christina Davidson, is trying to influence Iraqi politics
BGR, the firm started by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, has been promoting Ayad Allawi, the one-time Iraqi interim prime minister who over the weekend published an op-ed
in the Washington Post
calling for the parliamentary overthrow of current PM Nouri al-Maliki. The piece amounted to a trial balloon for American support for a second Allawi-led government, promising non-sectarianism and stability. Allawi has decades-old ties to the CIA, making him a known quantity to U.S. officials during a time of extreme frustration with Maliki.
But frustration alone doesn't get governments to fall. That's where BGR comes in. On August 17, the firm purchased the domain name Allawi-For-Iraq.com (the site's not yet live). Following publication of the op-ed, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) called on the Iraqi parliament to hold a no-confidence vote on Maliki. BGR circulated Levin's comments around Washington -- and particularly to Congressional staffers -- using the e-mail address DrAyadAllawi@Allawi-for-Iraq.com.
Yet BGR hasn't registered any affiliation with the ex-premier:
Allawi's relationship with BGR apparently is relatively new, however, because official Justice Department and Senate lobbyist tracking records provide no indication of the BGR-Allawi relationship.
BGR's Web site, which identifies dozens of BGR clients by name, makes no mention of Allawi.
But the firm's ties with Allawi perhaps shouldn't be so surprising. Among BGR's executives is Ambassador Bob Blackwill, who in 2004 served as the White House's Iraq coordinator. In that role, Blackwill was an enthusiastic booster of Allawi, helping manage the process that led to Allawi's selection by the U.S. and the U.N. as interim prime minister in advance of the dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority. After the 2005 elections in Iraq, Blackwill wrote a laudatory op-ed
in The Wall Street Journal
praising Allawi's strategy for crushing the insurgency: "Mr. Allawi's message is simple: Join us in building the new Iraq and accept its benefits or, if you support the insurgency, get ready to die."
As it happened, the strategy didn't live up to its promises. The elections knocked Allawi out of power, as his tenure ended up alienating a large swath of the majority Shiite population. His attempts at enlisting American support to return to office -- a perennial rumor in Washington
over the past two years -- have all fallen short. Evidently, though, Blackwill and BGR evidently think that the time is right to get the old gang back together.
After initially granting tepid support to the current Iraqi government during the current fracas, President Bush clarified yesterday in his speech to the VFW convention
that he supports Maliki, whom he called "a good guy." We'll see how long that lasts.