Pressure groups contributed to the return of Riyadh’s influence in Washington

Author Ben Freeman spoke on the site “The InterceptionOn the efforts of Saudi Arabia in the United States, to enhance its influence through the lobby, and note that Joe Biden’s failure to isolate it was not surprising.

In an article translated by Arabi21, he explained that Saudi Arabia has returned from Hollywood to the academic field he tried to stay away from. He began with what golf pro Phil Mickelson said of the Saudis: “We know they’re scary to come into this and we know they killed Khashoggi and they have a terrible human rights record.”

Speaking in November, Mickelson commented on the “Leaf” golf matches that supported Saudi Arabia as a competitor for the famous BGE league.

He added: “Knowing this, what makes me think about this,” and wrote that the opportunity is very good and should not be missed. Ten months later, Mickelson became the face of the new league. He played in every Liv game this summer.

Through golf, the Saudis have made Mickelson the world’s highest-paid athlete, with annual earnings of about $138 million in the past 12 months, and in that span he hasn’t won a single golf match. By working with Saudi Arabia despite his knowledge of the regime’s multiple excesses, Mickelson was not alone in his position. His prominent counterpart, President Joe Biden, called Saudi Arabia a pariah in his 2019 election campaign, but this summer he has his grip on peace with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, agreeing to sell the kingdom’s weapons worth billions of dollars. to sell.

The author believes that there was a moment when the Saudi position in the United States, supported by well-funded lobby groups, seemed to be facing an impasse. The murder of the “Washington Post” journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on the orders of the crown prince, led to the erosion of Saudi influence in the United States. Some countries have suspended arms deals to Saudi Arabia and some have issued travel bans against those suspected of involvement in the crime.

Some research centers have pledged not to accept Saudi money. American universities that have received millions of dollars from the ruling Saudi family have begun to review their relationships, and even the world of entertainment and sports have spoken out against Saudi brutality. In the world of professional sports and politics, within four years of Khashoggi’s murder, condemnations have subsided and relations have been restored.

Like Biden and Michaelson, the organizations that rejected the Saudis welcome them with open arms. And when lobby groups and public relations firms suspended relations with Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder, Saudi Arabia increased its dealings with companies from which it continues to receive money. In the six weeks after Khashoggi’s murder, PR firm Qorvis Communications, the kingdom’s longest-serving PR firm, received $18 million, according to data provided under the Foreign Customer Registration Act (FARA).

And Qorvis was the same company that helped the Saudis revive their reputation after it was revealed that 15 of the 19 Saudi attackers took part in the 9/11 operations. Qorvis received $14 million to provide outreach services to raise awareness of the Kingdom’s “commitment to the war on terrorism and peace in the Middle East,” according to the company’s filings under FARA legislation.

Since then, the Quincy Institute, which analyzes responsible governance, found that Qorvis received more than $100 million in significant expenses during or after these critical moments in US-Saudi relations. This included a substantial $11 million payment to Qorvis in 2003, just as America began an invasion of Iraq. In 2015, the year Saudi Arabia began its war in Yemen, Q-Orphice received $10 million from the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

After Khashoggi’s murder, Qorvis and other public relations firms that continued to receive money from Saudi Arabia for services worked to provide important services to the kingdom, specifically helping the crown prince face all penalties related to the Khashoggi murder. avoid. Congress passed resolutions that would have ended US support for the catastrophic war in Yemen.

In addition to several decisions that could stop arms deals to Saudi Arabia. But Trump, courted by the Saudis, voted against every resolution that would have held Saudi Arabia responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. And lobby groups in Congress made sure no veto was overturned by the president. The Saudi lobby took the battle to influence inside America away from the “Belt Road” (the realm of the government, lobby groups and the media) to a false propaganda campaign that eventually reached half of the US states.

The campaign was led by a public relations firm based in Des Moines, Iowa, called Larson Shanahan Silifka Group, which contacted thousands of small media organizations, local publishing groups, non-profit groups, businesses, religious organizations and even high school students. on behalf of the Saudi Embassy.

The campaign helped the Saudi ambassador spread the message that Saudi Arabia has deep ties to American trade and is working to improve its human rights record. Companies that left the kingdom after Khashoggi’s murder began to recoup their money and help revive Saudi influence in the United States. Richard Holt, a long-time Trump and lobbyist, suspended his contract with the Saudi government a month after Khashoggi’s murder, telling the Center for Public Integrity that he was now working on “my representation, my contribution and my to reconsider retirement”. ”

Six months later, Holt revealed in FARA filings that he had returned to work on behalf of the Saudi government. According to recent filings filed in June, Holt continues to advise the Saudi Embassy in Washington. In the six months covered by the files, he received $498,000 for his work. Like Holt, the BGR Group has suspended its contracts to represent the Saudi Embassy and the Center for Studies and Media Affairs in the royal court – led by Saud al-Qahtani, whom the CIA has named as one of Khashoggi’s killers. after the crime.

But in June, the group began representing an institution funded by the Saudi government, the Muslim World League. While lobby groups and public relations firms are the backbone of Saudi influence in America, they are assisted by centers of intellectual power, usually operating in Washington, DC, from research centers and leading university colleges across the country.

These entities decided to investigate their relations with Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi, but decided that the money was enough to allay their suspicions. Two weeks after Khashoggi’s murder, the Middle East Institute told BuzzFeed that the institute’s board had decided not to accept funding from the Saudi government and to place the funding under strict supervision, pending the results of the investigation into Khashoggi ‘s murder.

According to files submitted by the institute, since Khashoggi’s murder he has received more than $600,000 from Aramco Services, which runs the parent company, the oil company. As for the Center for International and Strategic Studies, it returned a grant from Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder. And in June this summer, the director of the Middle East Studies Program made it clear that he was confident that returning the Saudi scholarship after Khashoggi’s murder was the right decision, but “wasn’t sure to continue to breaking up was the right decision moving forward,” praising President Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia.

Like the Middle East Institute, CSIS files filed under FARA show that Aramco has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization since Khashoggi’s murder. Academic institutions received a total of more than $2.6 billion, according to Education Ministry records, shaken by the public condemnation of Khashoggi’s murder. While most educational institutions announced that they would review their relations with the Kingdom in the wake of the crime, none of them severed their relations with it.

This includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which hosted the Saudi crown prince in March 2018, six months before he ordered Khashoggi’s murder. After reviewing the Saudi funding, MIT decided to maintain the arrangement. The university has since accepted about $17 million from Saudi Arabia, according to an analysis of Ministry of Education records. And MIT is not alone in its position. American academic institutions have received $440 million since Khashoggi’s murder.

As academic institutions and politics reassess their relationship with Saudi Arabia, another branch of the American elite has reassessed the relationship. In an article published in the “Hollywood Reporter” in November 2021 titled “Hollywood gets closer to Saudi money again.” The article noted the efforts made by American entertainment companies to ignore Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi’s murder until the end of 2021, when Saudi Arabia organized the Red Sea International Festival for the movie.

Biden did not present a gift to the crown prince when he visited Saudi Arabia, but the visit would not have been possible without the work of public relations companies, pressure groups, research centers, colleges, sports stars, art and music that took Saudi money not. and contributed to improving his image and covering up his faults.

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