The Bahraini government, which has cracked down on growing political protests, has tapped a former Wall Street Journal national news reporter to help improve the Middle Eastern country’s communications with Washington.
Christopher Cooper’s public relations firm, Potomac Square Group, disclosed last week that it was hired in February by Abdul Latif Al Zayani, the special envoy from Bahrain to the United States.
Cooper was hired Feb. 17, after Bahraini troops opened fire on protesters in the Pearl Square in the country’s capital of Manama. Al Zayani told CNN at the time that his country’s leadership was committed to dialogue with opposition groups, but he added, “We had to take action, and the action was taken by the law.”
The violence continued this month as forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is composed of Saudi Arabia and several other Middle Eastern states, marched into Bahrain to crack down on the anti-government protests.
Al Zayani is slated to become the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council in April.
The role of Cooper’s firm is to “provide public affairs and strategic communications counsel,” according to the contract that was filed last week with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
“Such counsel may include written and oral advice dealing with reporters and public officials,” the contract says. “Service may include outreach to reporters and others in an effort to explain various positions held by the government of Bahrain.”
The agreement, which was originally reported by the Sunlight Foundation, states that the Bahraini government will pay Potomac Square Group a minimum fee of $20,000 and expenses. Cooper left the Wall Street Journal in 2009 and founded Potomac Square Group in February, according to his LinkedIn profile. He is the firm’s sole employee.
Bahrain, which has also been working with Qorvis Communications on its public relations campaign since last year, is not the only Middle Eastern nation that has sought expertise from U.S. firms to improve its image and standing with Congress.
Three Egyptian ministries, including the military, are relying on a consortium of three K Street firms — Podesta Group, Livingston Group and Moffett Group — to provide lobbying expertise on Capitol Hill and with the administration.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.