Tough Times for the Arab Lobby in Washington

Lobbying firms representing autocratic Arab regimes in Washington are having a tough time.

For years, they have been one of the most formidable lobbying forces in town: the elite band of former members of Congress, former diplomats and power brokers who have helped Middle Eastern nations navigate diplomatic waters here on delicate issues like arms deals, terrorism, oil and trade restrictions . . .

Now the Washington lobbyists for Arab nations find themselves in a precarious spot, as they try to stay a step ahead of the fast-changing events without being seen as aiding despots and dictators. In Libya, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt and other countries in the region, leaders have relied increasingly on Washington’s top lobbyists and lawyers, paying them tens of millions of dollars. Some consultants are tacking toward a more progressive stance in light of pro-democracy protests, while others are dropping their clients altogether because of the tumult.

The money involved makes the mythical “Israel lobby” look small-time for comparison. Once new governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and wherever else settle down to work, they’ll turn on the money spigot and the Arab lobby in Washington will be back to business as usual.

Related reading: The Israeli and Arab Lobbies.

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