Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Armed Rebel Groups Lobby in D.C., Just Like Governments. How Does That Influence U.S. Policy?

  • Reyko Huang
| Feb. 06, 2020

Last week, a feeble cease-fire in Libya collapsed just days after it went into effect following an international conference in Berlin. Foreign governments, including Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, had agreed to stop supplying weapons and fighters to back either the internationally recognized government in Tripoli or the armed opposition led by Col. Khalifa Hifter.

But Libya’s warring parties themselves have sought foreign assistance. While fighting battles at home, in Washington and other U.S. cities they have hired PR professionals with close connections to the U.S. government to lobby Congress, the White House and other policy audiences.

Lobbying by the Libyan government is but one instance of a multimillion-dollar industry in which U.S. law firms and PR companies work with foreign governments to influence U.S. politics.

Perhaps less known is the fact that armed rebel organizations, too, often work actively with PR firms to access and sway U.S. policymakers. Hifter, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, last year contracted a Houston-based lobbying firm for $2 million to help the rebel group conduct outreach toward the U.S. government. The firm took on its rebel client just weeks after Hifter’s forces launched a deadly military offensive on Tripoli, one which Amnesty International warned could amount to war crimes.

Rebel lobbying goes back decades

In the mid-1980s, the Nicaraguan contras worked with lobbyist Roger Stone to get Americans to “adopt a contra for $3.50 a day” during the war against the Sandinistas. During the 2011 Libyan revolution, the National Transitional Council — the political wing of the armed campaign to oust longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi — hired a Washington firm to lobby for international recognition as the legitimate government of Libya.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Huang, Reyko.“Armed Rebel Groups Lobby in D.C., Just Like Governments. How Does That Influence U.S. Policy?.” The Washington Post, February 6, 2020.

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