Republican lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration are aiding and supporting the efforts of an Iraqi opposition leader who is calling for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The anti-Maliki crusader is former Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, and the Washington firm retained to spearhead U.S.-focused efforts on his behalf is the Republican powerhouse group of Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers (BGR).
BGR International's president is Robert Blackwill, the one-time White House point man on Iraq, holding the title of Presidential Envoy to Iraq in 2004.
Blackwill worked closely during that time with Allawi, who was appointed Iraq's interim prime minister with the U.S. government's blessing.
IraqSlogger has learned BGR's work for Allawi includes the August 17 purchase of the Web site domain Allawi-for-Iraq.com.
In recent days, BGR sent hundreds of e-mail messages in Allawi's name from the e-mail address DrAyadAllawi@Allawi-for-Iraq.com.
Amid growing U.S. and Iraqi frustration with Maliki's leadership and speculation about whether President Bush might welcome Maliki's departure, President Bush made a forceful statement of support for Maliki Wednesday:
"Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it's not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position -- that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship."It is unclear whether Bush administration officials are aware of BGR's efforts to assist Maliki foe Allawi, who has branded Maliki incompetent and called for a new Iraqi prime minister -- a job many believe Allawi covets for himself.
Allawi argued in an August 18 Washington Post op-ed that Iraq will descend into chaos unless Maliki is replaced as prime minister.
Using the new Allawi e-mail address, BGR distributed the Allawi op-ed to U.S. Congressional staffers and others in Washington -- a development first reported by Congressional aide Daniel McAdams on Lew Rockwell's blog.
That BGR-purchased Allawi e-mail address was also used to distribute comments from Democratic Senator Carl Levin calling for Maliki's resignation.
Phone calls to BGR today seeking comment were not returned.
On its Web site, BGR describes itself as a "privately-owned Republican firm," and its founders and top executives include recently-departed Bush administration veterans, one-time Republican party leaders, and major Bush campaign contributors.
Allawi is not new to the world of Washington lobbyists.
In 2004, while interim Iraqi prime minister, Allawi spent nearly $400,000 with the Washington lobbying firm of Theros and Theros.
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.
BGR has another major Iraqi client: the Kurdistan Regional Government.