American-Lebanese intellectual and Middle East scholar Prof. Fouad Ajami has died of cancer, aged 68. He passed away Sunday in the United States.
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Ajami, who was an expert on the Middle East, is remembered chiefly for his support of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. He advised the Bush administration during that period. He was strongly opposed to the dictatorial regimes in the Arab countries, believed that the United States must confront “the culture of terror,” as he called it, and supported an assertive policy in regard to Iran and Syria.
Ajami immigrated to the United States from Lebanon with his family in 1963, when he was 18. At Princeton University, he stood out as a supporter of the Palestinians’ right to self-rule. He later went on to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, where he was in charge of the Middle East studies program.
He became well-known for his appearances on current affairs programs on American television, the hundreds of articles he wrote in journals and newspapers, and the six books he published.
Ajami was very close to the administration of George W. Bush and served as an adviser to Condoleezza Rice while she was national security adviser, and to Paul Wolfowitz, who was deputy secretary of defense at the time. In a speech delivered in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed Ajami had said the Iraqis would greet their liberation by the Americans with rejoicing.
His support for the war in Iraq elicited harsh criticism. He reiterated this support in an interview with Haaretz in 2011, in which he said: “I still support that war, and I think that the liberals who attacked Bush in America and elsewhere, who attacked him mercilessly, need to reexamine their assumptions.”
Ajami was known for his criticism of the Arab world's despotic rulers, among them Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya, and Hafez and Bashar Assad in Syria. He expressed optimism at the time of the Arab Spring, and had recently supported an assertive policy against Iran and Syria.