Algeria has hired US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s close friend to hinder Morocco’s efforts on the Western Sahara conflict
Rabat – Former National Rifle Association (NRA) president, David Keene has received payments amounting to six figures from the Algerian government since late last year to lobby against Morocco in the Western Sahara issue and defend Algeria’s interests in Washington, according to his Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filing, accessed by Morocco World News on Friday June 28, 2019.
His most recent FARA filing reveals that Keene has received at least $180,000 to support Algeria’s stance to the Western Sahara conflict and has attended multiple meetings with US government officials, including members of the Congress, the White House and even Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Robert.
But the most important member on Keene’s US government agenda is President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton; Keene’s former colleague at the NRA.
Keene’s John Bolton Connection & the Western Sahara Conflict
As part of the US administration’s New Africa Strategy, Bolton supported negotiations to end the decades-long conflict between Morocco and Algerian-backed group Polisario Front over the Western Sahara territories.
Keene’s close relationship with Bolton sparked his interest in Western Sahara and put him in contact with Algerian and Polisario officials. Polisario is an Algeria-funded group which has been in an ongoing battle against Morocco over Western Sahara since 1976.
Keene and Bolton met in January 2019 shortly after Bolton expressed “frustration that the conflict had not been resolved amid United Nations peace talks,” as stated by the report.
In his FARA filing, Keene stated that he worked on “projecting an up-to-date image of Algeria, her government, and her role in regional and world affairs.”
In fact, this is not the first time the American lobbyist has cooperated with the Algerian government and worked promoting the country’s interests to the US.
Keene had a similar lobbying activity in favor of Algeria between 2006 and 2007 on behalf of the Carmen Group, a lobbying firm in Washington D.C.
According to Washington Post, Carmen Group helped enhance the US- Algerian relations and extend trade, through government cooperation and “strategic advice.”
Carmen Group was also responsible for projecting “an up-to-date image of Algeria and promote congressional, public and media support for Algeria’s legitimate interests and policy goals,” Washington Post reported in 2006.
2018 US-Algerian Contract
Although Algeria has long argued that it is not a party to the Western Sahara conflict, this is the second contract it has signed with a lobbying firm in Washington D.C. to help thwart Morocco’s endeavors to terminate the territorial dispute.
According to the contract signed between Keene’s consulting firm and the Algerian government, effective through October 2019, the American lobbyist “shall provide counsel to and conduct lobbying activities” for Algeria to reinforce collaboration between Algeria and the US.
Some of the activities include mobilization of “non-governmental organizational, public and media support for Algeria,” and “enhancing Algeria’s image” in the US.
Under the 2018 agreement, Keene should regularly have in-person and telephone contact with Algeria’s Ambassador to the US, Madjid Bouguerra.
Unlike many other registrants who usually fail to detail the extent of their foreign implication, Keene discloses many contacts with government officials and fully describes his specific role in lobbying on behalf of Algeria on his recent FARA filing.
Keene’s December 15, 2018, meeting with Chief Justice Roberts, which also included Senators Orrin Hatch and Pat Roberts, reportedly aimed to “further the relationships and mutual interests of the U.S. and Algeria,” and was the first appearance of the Chief Justice ever reported in FARA filings by foreign agents.
Other offices Keene contacted in the Senate for the same purposes included Shelley Moore Capito, Cory Gardner, John Cornyn, David Perdue and Senator Roy Blunt with whom he conducted three meetings. Blunt signed a letter in support of Morocco’s Autonomy plan as early as 2007 in his capacity as then House Republican Whip.
According to his FARA filing, Keene’s conducted 34 meetings related to the acceleration of the US- Algerian relationships.
Morocco’s lobbyists in the US
While Algeria was relying on Keene to promote its interests and solidify its relations with the US, Morocco opted for foreign lobbyist Richard Smotkin.
A research report revealed that Rabat “has spent nearly $1.5 million targeting the US last year, according to Foreign Lobby Watch.”
One of the latest lobbying activities conducted in the US for Morocco involved the US former vice president, Joe Biden.
Since January 2018, JPC Strategies has become Morocco’s principal lobbying partner in the United States. According to FARA, JPC has been paid $75,000 a month to lobby in favor of Morocco.
JPC’s aims are to strengthen the US-Morocco relations as a strategic alliance, defend the country’s strategic interests, and promote American investments in Morocco.
Though not mentioned in the lobbying contract, the Western Sahara conflict is viewed as the heart of the firm’s advocacy work to support Morocco.
Bolton’s December 2018 speech at an event hosted at the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C., suggested that he would monitor the Western Sahara issue, leaving his personal imprint on it, urged Morocco to act quickly to prevent Algeria from undermining the political process.
It remains uncertain whether Morocco’s lobbying firms have fulfilled their mission, but Morocco’s diplomatic efforts have proved to be successful so far.
Morocco has prevented any development that would negatively impact the nation’s stance on the Western Sahara conflict and has succeeded in sustaining its diplomatic achievements despite Algeria’s constant efforts to swing momentum through Bolton.