Fouad Ajami, Middle East scholar and former CBS News analyst, dies at 68

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, right, meets Fouad Ajami, a Lebanese-born American university professor and then-Director of the Middle East Studies of Johns Hopkins University, in the heavily fortified Green Zone area in Baghdad, Iraq, March 17, 2007.

AP Photo/Wathiq Khuzaie, Poo

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Fouad Ajami, a former CBS News analyst and Middle East scholar who rallied support for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and advised policy makers in the Bush administration, has died. He was 68.

The Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Ajami was a senior fellow, said in a statement that Ajami lost his battle with cancer on Sunday.

In the period leading to the invasion of Iraq, The New York Times reported that Ajami advised national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. In a 2002 speech, Vice President Dick Cheney invoked Ajami as predicting that after liberation, Iraqis would greet the American military with joy.

According to his bio on the Hoover Institution website, Ajami was director of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University from 1980 to 2011. He is also the author of several books, including The Arab Predicament, Beirut: City of Regrets and The Dream Palace of the Arabs, in which he described Saddam Hussein as "a jackal, cunning and vicious."

After Saddam was captured by the U.S. in 2003, Ajami told Dan Rather that after terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, "the trail that began in Kabul was going to take us all the way to Baghdad and all the way to that hole in Tikrit where we found Saddam Hussein."

"It may be ironic for Saddam Hussein that maybe he didn't have WMDs but he strutted around as though he did. Maybe he didn't have links with al Qaeda but we were looking for these links," he said. "We established the one person we needed to go after the Taliban was going to be was Saddam Hussein because we needed to go the heart of the Arab world."

Ajami received numerous accolades, including the Benjamin Franklin Award for public service in2011 and the MacArthur Fellows Award in 1982, according to his bio on the Hoover Institution.

Ajami's writings include some 400 essays on Arab and Islamic politics and U.S. foreign policy.

He was survived by his wife.