From Dr Hamid Hussain.
Last few years I have been working on horizontal and vertical spread of conflict in the Middle East. This is first of the series looking at each player. This one was the outcome of my own trips to Washington every few months to get some feel of beltway currents. I have no specific insight but want to provide some glimpses of the issues facing the region.
“I have had lobbyists, and I have had some very good ones. They could do anything.” Donald Trump
In United States, domestic and foreign entities engage in lobbying at federal and state levels to promote their interests. In the last few years, many Arab countries have increased their lobbying efforts in Washington to promote their interests. In 2017, open conflict between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain on the other has spilled over into international arenas. In Washington, these efforts are multi-faceted including marshalling support of large businesses, think tanks, universities, legislators and public policy influencers.
The meteoric rise of a 30-year-old previously unknown royal family member to the dizzying height and sidelining of the old hands of Royal family in Saudi Arabia changed power dynamics inside the kingdom. This resulted in some competition even in Washington. Crown Prince and interior minister Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef hired a lobbying firm run by a Trump campaign advisor Robert Stryk. The firm was paid $5.4 million to make inroads into new administration. However, in June 2017 when Muhammad Bin Nayef was removed from his positions and Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) elevated as Crown Prince, the deal ended. MBS alienated many royal family members but for international image, he used others. Old hand and once a long-time ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar Bin Sultan quickly changed his direction and lined up behind MBS. During MBS visit to United States, Bandar was at hand to bring in his old contacts. Bandar’s daughter Princess Reema provided the soft and feminine face for the new regime on international circuit defending royal family in Washington and Davos. Full brother and close confidant of MBS Prince Khalid Bin Salman was appointed ambassador to Washington. Saudi embassy chose an American raised and educated Saudi-American Fatima Baeshen as its spokeswoman. She had previously worked at a pro Saudi think tank Arabia Foundation run by a former banker Ali Shihabi. (Bloomberg Businessweek, 26 April 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-26/saudi-arabia-reboots-its-washington-lobbying-blitz) Continue reading “Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain”