Arab Spring Fever

All hope is not lost for democracy in the Middle East. Political pluralism may be taking root, but real change will not emerge on any U.S. administration’s timetable.

Issue: Sept-Oct 2007

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EUPHORIA SWEPT across legions of observers of Arab politics two years ago. A series of unusual scenes on the streets of the Middle East nurtured an inspiring story line of an emerging "Arab spring" that mimicked the earlier triumph of democracy from the Philippines to Prague: mass demonstrations in Lebanon; joint rallies of Egyptian Islamists and liberals against the Mubarak regime; and elections in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia. Many of the most deeply entrenched Arab regimes appeared to be on the verge of losing their authoritarian grip. Symbolized by purple fingers in Iraq, orange t-shirts in Lebanon and the single word kifaya ("enough") in Egypt, the fall of the Arab equivalent of the Berlin Wall seemed at hand.

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