JERUSALEM – The foreign affairs adviser for a top U.S. lobby firm hired to represent the rebels of Libya served a few months ago as President Obama’s special representative to Egypt, where he reportedly held a clandestine meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In addition, a public relations firm working on behalf of the rebels recently arranged a meeting for Libya’s opposition with a progressive group funded by billionaire George Soros that is known for its close relationship with the White House.
WND previously reported the International Crisis Group, or ICG, led in part by Soros, has long petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ICG includes on its board Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and other personalities who champion dialogue with Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
WND reported on the numerous ties of Soros initiatives – including his own Open Society Institute – to the revolutions sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
Earlier this week, The Hill reported Patton Boggs, the top-earning K Street firm, is lobbying for the rebels to be accepted in the international community as the “legitimate government of the sovereign nation of Libya,” according to documents filed this week with the Justice Department.
The Hill reported Patton Boggs signed a contract with the so-called Interim Transitional National Council of Libya to provide “advice and assistance on U.S.-Libya bilateral relations,” the documents said.
The agreement was reportedly signed with Ali Suleiman Aujali, the rebels’ representative to the United States. Aujali resigned as ambassador to Libya in the wake of the NATO campaign targeting the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.
Patton Boggs’ foreign affairs adviser is Frank Wisner, a career diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt, India, Zambia and the Philippines.
According to Patton Boggs’ website, Wisner “provides clients with strategic global advice concerning business, politics, and international law from the firm’s Washington and New York offices.”
Wisner previously served as vice chairman of American International Group, leaving it for Patton Boggs in 2009, just as AIG – one of the world’s biggest insurers – was seized by the Obama administration in an $85 billion bailout deal.
In February, during the revolution that led to the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a staunch U.S. ally, Wisner was dispatched by the White House to Cairo to serve as Obama’s temporary representative there.
WND reported at the time that Wisner allegedly held a secret meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with Essam El-Erian, a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s major Islamist opposition group.
The topic of the meeting was the future of Egypt following the “fall” of Mubarak, an Egyptian intelligence official told WND in February.
The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to spread Islam around the world. Al-Qaida is another violent Brotherhood offshoot, along with Hamas.
Just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the Obama administration is open to dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We believe, given the changing political landscape in Egypt, that it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to nonviolence, that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency,” she told reporters in Budapest, Hungary.
“And we welcome, therefore, dialogue with those Muslim Brotherhood members who wish to talk with us,” she said.
It is unclear, however, exactly who represents the Libyan rebels. The council, the most publicized organization claiming to represent the rebels, has published a manifesto entitled “A Vision of a Democratic Libya.” The council’s website says France formally recognized it as Libya’s legitimate government on March 10.
Gaddafi has accused the rebels of being aligned with al-Qaida and Islamic fundamentalists as well as with the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a March interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, said the jihadists who fought against U.S. and allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Gadhafi.
Al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaida are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”
Meeting with Soros-funded group
Another group reportedly now representing the rebels since April is the Harbour Group, which handles public relations for the opposition movement. Harbour works closely with Patton Boggs. Harbour’s stated goal is to raise the rebels’ profile among journalists and politicians in the U.S. capital.
Richard Mintz, a Harbour Group principal, said his company was not getting paid for its work with the rebels.
“We are volunteering our time,” Mintz told Reuters in April.
At the beginning of April, Reuters reported Harbour arranged a well-attended talk by the rebel government’s Washington representative, Aujali, at the Center for American Progress, or CAP.
CAP is heavily financed by Soros. It is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House policy. CAP is led by John Podesta, who served as co-chair of Obama’s presidential transition team.
Former Obama “green jobs” czar Van Jones is a CAP fellow. Jones resigned in 2009 after it was exposed that he founded a communist revolutionary group.
On CAP’s board is Carol Browner, who directed the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy until earlier this year. When her appointment to the Obama administration was announced in January 2009, Browner was listed as one of 14 leaders of the Commission for a Sustainable World Society of Socialist International, the world’s largest socialist umbrella group. SI calls for “global governance” and a world socialist order.
‘Normalize’ Muslim Brotherhood
Soros’ ICG, meanwhile, has petitioned for the Algerian government to cease “excessive” military activities against al-Qaida-linked groups and to allow organizations seeking to create an Islamic state to participate in the Algerian government.
Soros’ own Open Society Institute has funded opposition groups across the Middle East and North Africa, including organizations involved in the current chaos.
Following protests that led to the resignations of Mubarak and Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali – both key U.S. allies – Algeria similarly has been engulfed in anti-regime riots.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has ruled the country with a tough hand. And he has been an ally of the U.S. in fighting al-Qaida. Islamist parties serve as Bouteflika’s main opposition.
The International Crisis Group, which includes Soros among its eight executive committee members, long has petitioned for the reformation of the Algerian government and for the inclusion of Islamist political parties, two groups that seek to turn Algeria into an Islamic state.
In a July 2004 ICG report obtained by WND, the ICG calls on the Algerian government to curb military action against al-Qaida-affiliated organizations, particularly the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, the GSPC, and an armed Islamic terrorist group known as Houmat Daawa Salafia, or HDS. Like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the GSPC aims to establish an Islamic state within Algeria.
Soros’ ICG names the two Islamic groups in its recommendations to the Algerian government.
“Give top priority to ending the remaining armed movements, mainly the GSPC and HDS, through a political, security, legal and diplomatic strategy,” states the ICG report.
“Avoid excessive reliance on military means and do not allow these movements’ purported links to al-Qaida to rule out a negotiated end to their campaigns,” continued the ICG’s recommendation to the Algerian government.
The ICG has issued at least six other reports recommending Algeria transition to a democracy that will allow the participation of the Islamic groups seeking to create a Muslim caliphate.
After Algeria’s president, Bouteflika, won more than 80 percent of the vote against Islamic opposition groups in 2004, Robert Malley, an ICG associate, recommended, “Rather than exclude all his opponents from the policy-making process, he could empower them.”
The ICG’s Malley was an adviser to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. He resigned after it was exposed he had communicated with Hamas. WND reported Malley long had petitioned for dialogue with Hamas.
WND also reported previously the ICG also has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The ICG released a report urging the Egyptian regime to allow the Brotherhood to establish an Islamist political party.
In a June 2008 report entitled “Egypt’s Muslim Brothers Confrontation or Integration,” Soros’ ICG urges the Egyptian regime to allow the group to participate in political life.
The report dismisses Egypt’s longstanding government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood as “dangerously short-sighted.”
The ICG report called on Mubarak’s regime to “pave the way for the regularization of the Muslim Brothers’ participation in political life,” including by allowing for the “establishment of a political party with religious reference.”
The ICG specifically stressed allowing the Brotherhood to serve as an Islamist party several times in its 2008 report.
The ICG and its personalities also long have petitioned for the Muslim Brotherhood to be allowed to join the Egyptian government.
ElBaradei suspended his board membership in the ICG in February after he returned to Egypt to lead the anti-Mubarak protests.
U.S. board members include Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to Jimmy Carter; Samuel Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security adviser; and retired U.S. ambassador Thomas Pickering, who made headlines in 2009 after meeting with Hamas leaders and calling for the U.S. to open ties to the Islamist group.
Another ICG member is Malley.
The ICG defines itself as an “independent, non-profit, multinational organization, with 100 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.”
Funding the opposition
Meanwhile, Soros also has other ties to opposition groups in the Middle East.
His Open Society Institute’s Middle East and North Africa Initiative has provided numerous grants to a wide range of projects that promote so-called democratic issues across the region, including in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood stands to gain from any future election.
Soros’ Open Society also funded the main opposition voice in Tunisia, Radio Kalima, which championed the riots there that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In September, Soros’ group was looking to expand its operations in Egypt by hiring a new project manager for its Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which is run in partnership with the Open Society Justice Initiative. The group is seeking to develop a national network of legal empowerment actors for referral of public-interest law cases. Such organizations in the past have helped represent Muslim Brotherhood leaders seeking election or more authority in the country.
Soros himself in February made public statements in support of the protests in Egypt, which the Mubarak government has warned will result in the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country.
In a Washington Post editorial entitled “Why Obama Has to Get Egypt Right,” Soros recognized that if free elections were held in Egypt, “the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority.”
He stated the U.S. has “much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy” in Egypt.
He claimed the Muslim Brotherhood’s cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei “is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system.”
Soros did not mention his ties to ElBaradei.
Soros did, however, single out Israel as “the main stumbling block” in paving the way toward transition in the Middle East.
“In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks,” he wrote.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott