What Went Wrong in Iraq: The Khedery Version

The following article was published by Reidar Visser, an historian of Iraq educated at the University of Oxford. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

It’s going to be cited a lot, so it’s worth taking a closer look at a quite lengthy opinion piece on US policy towards Iraq and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that recently appeared in The Washington Post.

The article is signed by Ali Khedery, one of the most prominent Americans of Iraqi origins to have served the United States government in Iraq between 2003 and 2010.

Until now, Khedery’s role has been largely unknown outside policy-making circles, but his assertion that he at times became “the Iraqi leader’s go-to guy for just about everything” seems credible enough, especially given his Arabic language skills, which by his own admission formed something of a rarity and an exception among high-level US decision-makers in Iraq during the years of the Bush administration.

Khedery also had particularly close ties to Maliki, described as going back before Maliki’s emergence as premier in 2006, and involving for example a prominent and personal role during Maliki’s visit to London in 2009 for purposes of urgent medical treatment.

Some valuable empirical information is certainly provided in the Khedery piece. We learn that not only did Maliki have the habit of working 16 hours a day during his early days as premier. Until 2009, apparently, leading US officials Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus reportedly were together with him for several hours “virtually every day”, strengthening the impression of a period of American tutelage during long periods of Maliki’s first term.

Also, there is credible information in the Khedery piece about the key circles of American support for Maliki – consisting chiefly of Ambassador Chris Hill and Brett McGurk of the NSC, but also, crucially, at a key juncture in September 2010, of Vice President Joe Biden. Biden reportedly at one point in 2010 betted his vice presidency that Maliki was going to extend a US-Iraqi agreement that would have enabled American soldiers to stay in Iraq beyond 2011!

3 Responses to What Went Wrong in Iraq: The Khedery Version

  1. Whistle blower 7th July 2014 at 15:16 #

    Why not publishing the Khedery article from New York Times instead of commenting the article? Once the article from the New York Times is published then everybody can comment on what he is saying.

    Otherwise, the risk for media manipulation is too obvious

  2. Editor 7th July 2014 at 15:35 #

    @Whistle blower: a link to the article refered to in the Washington Post (not NY Times) has been added.

    We have not have rights to re-publish it.

    - Editor.

  3. Kamil Mahdi 11th July 2014 at 15:43 #

    I sent this letter to the Washington Post but it was not published:

    Dear Letters' Editor,

    Ali Khedery, "Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq", July 3rd, does not as he claims inform us why the US stuck with Maliki, only who said what. He presents a picture only of conjecture and short-term political considerations. If this were the case, there would not have been an invasion in the first place.

    The writer had served the US occupation project for ten years and admits to having brokered the Exxon-KRG oil deal which undermines the integrity of Iraq. Yet, what he finds wrong with US policy was its support for Maliki in 2010, not the occupation. There is no mention of any of the major US decisions undermining the state and paralysing it, and none of Negroponte and the Salvador Option, of the training of torture and murder teams, of the brute force of the US military and mercenaries, and no mention of a flawed constitution and policies driving a wedge between Iraqis.

    It is a picture of US innocence, and of Iraqi violence, mistrust and proclivity to dictatorship, symbolised by Maliki; a picture that satisfies an innate imperial urge to blame the native. Khedery even says Maliki destroyed the Iraqi state, implying that the US had built and sustained it. We are invited to believe that Bush invaded Iraq for freedom and democracy, and that the Biden plan was a mere passing thought, not a reality unfolding before us on a sea of blood with oil interests well protected.

    Iraqis now find their country a playground for external powers, and themselves sandwiched between a corrupt, sectarian and repressive government, and an opposition that is in collusion with a barbarian gang. But Iraqis are also aware that their current suffering is a legacy of the US invasion and occupation, and US intervention is no more welcome now than it was before.

    Dr Kamil Mahdi