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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 7, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 41
SAIS' Fouad Ajami Publishes New Book on Iraq

By Felisa Neuringer Klubes

Fouad Ajami, the Majid Khadduri Professor of Middle East Studies and director of the Middle East Studies Program at SAIS, has recently published The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs and the Iraqis in Iraq. Free Press released the book on July 10.

One of the world's foremost authorities on Middle Eastern politics, Ajami has made many trips to Iraq since the war began and has met Iraqis of all ethnicities, religions, politics and regions. In The Foreigner's Gift, he provides the reader with a portrait of the whole Iraq — the one that is not on the evening news and that is necessary to understand in order to know what the future might hold.

Ajami shows the unseen Iraq through interviews with Baathist insurgents, reclusive Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, political figure Ahmad Chalabi, American soldiers, Kurdish politicians, Iraqi policemen and ordinary citizens voting for the first time. In Iraq's endless variety, he sees the possibility for a harmonious, diverse, fluid society — or for an acrimonious, war-torn place stunted by power struggles.

In the book, he argues that the country would have been better off if Iraqis had brought about their own liberty and demolished Saddam Hussein's prisons and statues on their own, the United States had entered into its path in Iraq with a better understanding of the region, and the Iraqis had not been too proud to admit that they needed a foreigner's gift. But this gift of liberty granted them by an American-led war, he says, is what Iraqis now have to work with if they are to make a history that goes beyond the sorrow and violence of the country's recent past.

Ajami serves as a consultant to CBS News on Middle Eastern affairs and is a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report and a frequent contributor to Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and a Bradley Prize, he is the author of The Dream Palace of the Arabs and The Arab Predicament.


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