Ali Khedery is the chairman and chief executive of the Dubai-based Dragoman Partners. He negotiated Exxon Mobile’s entry into Kurdistan as an executive with that company. Before that, he worked with the U.S. State and Defense departments, and was the longest serving American official in Iraq from 2003 to 2009. Khedery served as the special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors and a senior advisor to three commanders of U.S. Central Command.
Ali Khedery knows the Middle East, and Iraq in particular.
It is important to know Khedery’s background because when he sounds the alarm, and he is sounding the alarm with all the fury of a man witnessing an irreversible tragedy unfolding, the world would be well-advised to listen to him.
In an open letter to President Barack Obama in Politico Magazine, Khedery chided the president for his commitment to a policy of “benign neglect” toward the Middle East. He advised the president to give up on his current team of advisors, who have not served him well leading up to and during this present region-wide crisis, and surround himself with new voices.
“One former aide from your White House team recently told me: It’s not just that they don’t understand. It’s that they don’t want to understand what’s happening in the Middle East. They just want it all to go away,” Khedery wrote. “But it’s only going to get worse.”
Khedery advocated for the establishment of a “Middle East Czar,” though in an age in which there is an executive branch czar for everything from cars to copyrights, the term seems a frivolous one. What Khedery is advocating is something quite distinct from the role Steve Rattner played during the automotive industry bailout.
“Just as Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) transformed our extraordinarily capable but diffuse covert elements by fusing military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement resources under one roof, a Supreme Allied Command for the Middle East and North Africa would act as an all-of-government fusion cell,” he wrote.
In other words, you need a modern-day Gen. Dwight Eisenhower—circa 1938—to help contain and quell separate conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq before they merge into an all-out regional conflagration and before jihadis orchestrate a second 9/11.
Khedery a rather serious fellow. Which is why his warning to CNN host Jake Tapper should be that much more disturbing. Unless the United States gets its head around the fact that what is occurring in Iraq has the potential to become a full-fledged regional war (in many respects, it already is), America can expect that “another 9/11 is imminent.”
“I know they don’t take the threat of transnational jihad seriously enough,” Khedery said when asked for his assessment of how the Obama administration is handling the current crisis. “ISIS represents, in fact, the most virulent form of transnational jihad the planet has ever seen.”
“By referring to them as the jayvee team, by sitting back and watching them rise over the three years despite the genocide in Syria, by watching [former Iraqi PM Nouri] Maliki’s sectarian policies create an environment where ISIS could again come into Iraq, and then by doing nothing about it for months now, despite repeated warnings from the intelligence community, what’s happened now is the cancer has metastasized and we have a major problem on our hands,” he added.
“I consumed a lot of CIA and NSA products over the years,” Khedery warned. “But you don’t need access to CIA and NSA products to know that they are coming and that another 9/11 is imminent unless we act decisively, and quickly, and do it right now with our allies in the region and around the world.”
…Well. That’s heartening.
The problem for Obama is that to accept Khedery’s suggestion is to confess that his approach to Iraq over the last five years has been a failure. Obama cannot even bring himself to tell the country the truth about the nature of the American mission in Iraq (yes, Virginia, there are boots on the ground).
Obama is in the midst of a scramble to handle this grave military threat as he would a political crisis. That is a scarier prospect than anything Khedery warned of in this clip.