Yesterday, former Guardian Middle East editor Brian Whitaker wrote on his blog (which was followed by an article in the Independent) about the upcoming “Bahrain Independent Symposium”. By the looks of it, this is likely to be another high profile international PR attempt by the Bahraini government.
One of the two co-sponsors of this conference is the Bahrain American Council (BAC) which, we noted last year, was registered by and run out of the offices of Washington DC lobbying/PR firm Policy Impact Communications. Three people with ties to the BAC and Policy Impact are listed as “key people” attending the upcoming conference:
- Al Khalafalla, president of the BAC
- Bart Marcois, a “strategic advisor” to the BAC. In 2011, Marcois also served as a vice-president of Policy Impact Communications.
- Former US Republican congressman Dan Burton, who went on a visit to Bahrain last year, paid for by the BAC to the tune of $20,966.
In his blog, Brian Whitaker notes that the list of participants also includes a number of US rightwingers and former UK Secretary State for Defence Liam Fox. It is worth mentioning that Fox has another connection to the Bahraini government, which may or may not be coincidental.
In October 2011, Liam Fox was forced to resign because of his working relationship with friend Adam Werritty. The name of a corporate intelligence company called G3 was brought up in connection to the scandal. According to the Telegraph, G3 had made payments of some £60,000 to a charity that funded Fox and Werritty’s trips around the world.
(It is probably unrelated, but interesting to note, that one of the trips that Fox and Werritty made together was a visit to Bahrain in December 2010).
Last year, Bahrain Watch revealed that the Bahraini government had contracted G3 in July 2011 for a sum of £1.5 million (~US$ 2.27 million) to develop a “media campaign to support Bahrain’s position in the international community.”
Excerpted from the list of government tenders awarded in July 2011, posted on the website of the Bahrain Tender Board:
The awarding of this contract was followed by the publication of opinion pieces in support of the Bahraini government by Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb, who serves as a “special adviser” to G3.
The connection between Liam Fox’s upcoming visit to Bahrain and G3’s contract with Bahrain may or may not be just a coincidence, but Bahrain Watch believes it is enough to warrant some further investigation.
For more about the many other Western companies who have provided their services to the Bahrain government, check out Bahrain Watch’s PR Watch project.