Allawi's ascent follows extensive PR campaign|
By Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY
Iraq's new prime minister waged an expensive lobbying and public relations campaign beginning last year to build political support — not in Baghdad, but in Washington.
Iyad Allawi benefited from at least $340,000 in spending for Washington lawyers and lobbyists and New York PR agents, all paid for by a wealthy Iraqi expatriate who lives in London.
Allawi's selection last week by his colleagues in the interim Iraqi Governing Council testified to his political skills. But some analysts said his campaign in Washington also had been a major help.
"It was a bid for influence, and it was money well spent," said Danielle Pletka, a Middle East analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "Allawi has always assumed, in many ways correctly, that he didn't need a constituency in Iraq as long as he had one in Washington."
The lobbying was coordinated by the consulting business of Patrick Theros, a former U.S. ambassador to the country of Qatar who knew Allawi. It hired the law firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds and the New York public relations firm of Brown Lloyd James. Theros referred inquiries to PR representatives in the Persian Gulf who could not be reached.
Lobbying records show that the law firm engaged in a flurry of contacts on Allawi's behalf beginning in late October. Most were aimed at setting up meetings with influential members of Congress and their staffs, administration officials, think tanks and journalists.
The contacts included the offices of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas; and Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Affairs Committee.
Other calls went to officials at the National Security Council, Vice President Cheney's office, the Defense Department, the CIA and three influential Washington think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation and Brookings Institution.
Allawi has worked for the CIA and was in Washington as recently as December to do work there. But many of the meetings arranged by the law firm fell through because of scheduling problems.
Allawi is a member of the Iraqi National Accord, a party made up largely of exiled former members of Saddam Hussein's military. He was trying to warn Washington officials that the Bush administration policy of expunging all former members of Saddam's Baath Party from the new government had gone too far. Barring all people with Baathist backgrounds would make it more difficult to reconstitute an Iraqi army, Allawi said.
Allawi was a member of the Baath Party from 1961 to 1971, when he fled to Lebanon and then to London. Trained as a neurologist, he was almost hacked to death by Saddam's agents in 1978.
Allawi's views were promoted by Mashal Nawab, a London physician whose family is wealthy because of Middle Eastern oil investments. Nawab paid Theros for the lobbying work as "a close friend and admirer" of Allawi, according to the lobbying disclosures.
Preston Gates was paid $302,700 for its work, and Brown Lloyd James was paid $37,500, according to the documents. Representation by those two firms ended in February. The Theros firm, which continues to lobby, was being paid $10,000 a month.