Conservative Viewpoints

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Scholar tells NPR “Iraq is improving”

Posted by Stephen on April 10, 2007

Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle East Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, recently returned from his seventh trip to Baghdad. Ajami is a writer who has been a supporter of the war, but who wrote a book on why it went so wrong.

Accompanied by body guards, Ajami traveled throughout Baghdad. In his opinion things are changing in the Iraqi capital.

“There is a tremendous sense of optimism and hope invested in this security plan.”

Ajami acknowledged that suicide bombings by Sunnis have increased. However, sectarian violence has abated and moved elsewhere, and Baghdad might feel a little better now. Yet, there is something else that Ajami sees in this country he loves.

“There’s something else that has happened. It is the brutal truth that no one wants to talk about. Sunnis have lost the battle for Baghdad and if you talk to their leaders, clerics and politicians alike, they will tell you they have lost the battle for Baghdad. Their whole argument that the Americans have to pack up and leave has subsided and has been replaced by a desire to see the Americans can stay and to see whether their own leaders, Sunni leaders, can strike a better deal for them. This is a very monumental change in Baghdad,” Ajami told NPR radio.

The great struggle now, as Ajami sees it, lies in the leadership of Iraq. While Kurds, and Shiite communities are well represented in the newly elected Iraqi government, Sunnis are not. Sunnis placed their faith in the insurgency and now they find themselves on the outside looking in.

There are a million Iraqi Sunnis in Syria, 700,000 Sunnis in Jordan, and tens of thousands of Sunnis in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Most of these Sunnis represented the middle class of the nation and were the only ones allowed to leave under the former tyrannical rule. The problem is that those Sunnis that are engaged in the government are not considered truly representative of the Sunnis left in Iraq.

“There are many Sunni leaders in the inner circles of power. The problem is the Sunni streets, I don’t like the term but it lends itself-it’s handy, they will turn around and tell you that these people don’t represent them, they are instruments of the Shiite. I personally think these Sunni Arabs are recognizing that these Sunnis in government are the ones that will represent them better,” shared Ajami.

Ajami recognizes that there is much work to be done. He spoke on NPR about the human suffering that exists, the loss of schools, hospitals and other essentials that hurt civilized society.

Yet, Ajami clearly sees a tide of change not embedded in the additional soldiers, but in the hearts and minds of Iraqis that may now by seeing the possibilities of building a nation of their own and staking a claim on a future based on freedom.

Stephen Winslow is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.

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