Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Lobby Shop Behind DC's Newest Middle East Think Tank

 Here is more from Foreign Lobby Report:

Late last month the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee invited his fellow lawmakers to discover a new think tank dedicated to Tunisia, a tiny North African country with an outsize influence in Washington due to its status as the Arab Spring’s sole success story.

In his Jan. 14 Dear Colleague letter, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) described the Center for Strategic Studies on Tunisia (CSST) as a US-based initiative “established to strengthen ties between the United States and Tunisia and position Tunisia as a model for other nations that seek to build their own democratic institutions.” He invited members of Congress to a Feb. 4 webinar hosted by the CSST to discuss the “challenges and opportunities” for US-Tunisia relations and the “lessons learned” since a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire a decade ago, sparking anti-government protests across the Middle East.

Unmentioned in the letter was the ambitious Tunisian woman behind the think tank — or the Washington lobbying firm that helped her get it off the ground.

Olfa Hamdi, a Tunisian-born, US-educated, 32-year-old engineer, is the think tank’s president and founder as well as its public face. Corporate records show she registered the CSST in Washington last July and another group called the American Tunisian Partnership Project a month later.

While its website says it was founded by Hamdi to “help strengthen the American-Tunisian relationship and ensure a bright future for her native Tunisia,” the think tank is housed in the offices of Cornerstone Government Affairs, a lobbying firm with a strong presence in Texas.


The piece goes on to note that four of the five US experts listed as providing the think tank with support on communications and policy are Cornerstone employees. 

Here is a press release announcing the think tank's launch, and here is a link to the think tank itself.