President & Principal
Fluent in Arabic, Jeffrey Beals served in key posts as an American diplomat in Jerusalem and Baghdad and has been called back to government service multiple times to consult on crises in the region. He was political adviser to multiple U.S. ambassadors to Iraq. He mediated the drafting of Iraq’s constitution and the formation of Iraq’s first elected government, served as U.S. Embassy spokesman to the Arabic media, and arranged the first meetings between the American ambassador and representatives of the Iraqi insurgency. Also conversant in Hebrew, he collaborated with late Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Jerusalem on the Road Map peace negotiations. He has a master’s degree in Middle East Studies from Harvard University and is a graduate of Harvard College.
Fluent in Arabic, Oubai Shahbandar served for nearly a decade within the U.S. national security establishment. Shahbandar served three secretaries as a Middle East foreign affairs specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. He also served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan as a political adviser to U.S. Special Operations forces. Shahbandar is a frequent commentator on international security and geopolitical matters via numerous global media outlets. He is a graduate of Georgetown University.
Dr. Carl Schramm
Carl Schramm is an active venture investor and University Professor at Syracuse. He is also the Ciocca Family Professor of Innovation at the University of California at Davis, a fellow at the Institute for Business Innovation at U.C. Berkley and a visiting scientist at MIT. Trained as an economist and lawyer, from 2002 to 2012 he was CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, the world's leading authority on entrepreneurship and innovation. Schramm was also executive vice president of Fortis and co-founder of Fortis Re and five other companies. He has co-authored numerous books, including: "The Entrepreneurial Imperative" (Collins, 2005); "Good Capitalism/Bad Capitalism" (Yale, 2010); "Inside Real Innovation" (World Scientific, 2010); and "Better Capitalism" (Yale, 2012).
Schramm was a professor of health finance at Johns Hopkins for 15 years. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin, and a law degree from Georgetown University. In addition to six honorary doctorates, he is a recipient of the George Eastman medal. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, and a fellow of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Fluent in Arabic, Ali Khedery was previously an executive with ExxonMobil Corporation, where he served as senior adviser for the Middle East. During his tenure, Khedery engaged with heads of state, ministers, and opinion-makers and advised ExxonMobil’s senior executives on strategic pursuits and the region’s unprecedented political, economic, security, and social developments during the “Arab Spring.” Khedery played a leading role in drafting and implementing the corporation’s Iraq country strategy; its Iraqi federal- and Kurdistan regional government engagement strategies; and he was the architect and chief political negotiator of ExxonMobil’s historic billion-dollar entry into the Kurdistan Region. He was promoted to serve as director of public and government affairs for ExxonMobil Kurdistan Region of Iraq Limited.
Khedery also worked for the U.S. State and Defense departments, where he served as special assistant to five American ambassadors in Iraq, and as senior adviser to three four-star chiefs of U.S. Central Command, the military authority responsible for operations across the broader Middle East and Central Asia. Numerous special assignments included participation in sensitive negotiations pertaining to the formation of five Iraqi governments; the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution and the oil and gas and revenue sharing laws; insurgent outreach which culminated in the tribal “Awakening;” the trilateral U.S.-Iran-Iraq talks; negotiating the U.S.-Iraq bilateral Strategic Framework and Security (SOFA) agreements; travel across four continents with all of Iraq’s presidents and prime ministers; and Iran war- and regional contingency planning in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. Khedery was the longest continuously-serving American official in Iraq; a member of the U.S. government’s Senior Executive Service; and a recipient of the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Exceptional Public Service, the Secretary of State’s Tribute, and the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Medal for his contributions to American and allied national security interests.
Khedery was branded “one of the best connected men in Iraq” in a Pulitzer finalist Reuters special report. He has appeared on CNN’s “Amanpour,” BBC’s “Hardtalk,” PBS' "Frontline," al-Arabiya, al-Jazeera, France24, Sky News, HBO/Vice News, RT, NPR, and he played a leading role in the production of ABC News’ investigative report uncovering Iraqi war crimes following the fall of Mosul and the reconstitution of the Iran-backed militias. The author of front-page opinion features in the Washington Post and the New York Times, he has also written for Foreign Affairs*, Politico, Foreign Policy, and the Guardian.
An Aspen Institute Middle East Leadership Initiative fellow, Khedery also worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Office of the Governor of Texas, where he helped found and administer the Governor’s Council on Science and Biotechnology Development. He studied political science at the University of Texas at Austin.