Iranian Kurdish rebels hire law firm to lobby Trump administration

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Article Summary
The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan now has lobbyists covering both the executive and legislative branches.

An Iranian Kurdish armed group has hired a new lobbyist to reach out to the Donald Trump administration. 

The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan hired Washington law firm the Cogent Law Group in December to “promote and develop cooperative relations with the US government,” according to newly disclosed lobbying filings. The firm was paid $40,000 up front to organize a “single high-level meeting with a senior official of the executive branch of the United States Government” and a “single media interview in the United States.”

Although Cogent will be dealing with Komala’s US representative, Salah Bayaziddi, the contract was signed by the party’s secretary-general, Abdullah Mohtadi. It comes at a fraught time for the left-wing group as the Trump administration fine-tunes its Iran policy.

Bloomberg reported last month that the State Department had ordered US diplomats to limit their interactions with certain Iranian opposition groups — including Komala — to avoid jeopardizing potential diplomacy with Iran. Just one week later, however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo overrode the order following pressure from right-wing hawks, according to The Daily Beast.

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Cogent associate Mostafa El-Erian is the sole registered foreign agent on the account and is expected to be paid $10,000 to work on an op-ed for the group, “assist in advising to establish a US charitable foundation” and “develop” a Wikipedia page. Its current Wikipedia entry, which is less than 100 words long, refers to Komala as a communist party, a characterization the group rejects as it seeks support from US hawks (the name of the party translates to Revolutionary Workers' Society of Iranian Kurdistan and its symbol is a red star). Any additional work is to be charged at the firm’s usual legal rates.

In a statement, El-Erian told Al-Monitor that the “Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan commends President Donald Trump and the Trump Administration for its continued policy of maximum pressure on the Iranian regime, which constitutes a foremost regional and international terrorist threat.”

This isn’t Komala’s first lobbying contract.

 

 

The group’s US office hired Ayal Frank’s AF International in February to lobby US officials. Frank met with staffers from several congressional offices last year to discuss US-Iran relations and Iranian-Kurdish issues.

Frank and Bayaziddi disclosed meetings with right-wing think tanks, including the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Hudson Institute, in March and meetings with Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., in July.

Found in: Iran-US tensions

Aaron Schaffer writes about Middle East lobbying for Al-Monitor in Washington, DC. He co-writes and reports for Al-Monitor's bi-weekly lobbying newsletter. On Twitter: @aaronjschaffer

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