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New Arab rallying cry: 'Enough'

Wednesday's protest in Egypt shows how the growing push for democracy in the Middle East also has an anti-US streak.

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At a demonstration here Wednesday, kifaya was the mantra. About 500 secular and democracy activists returned again and again to the one-word slogan - the Arabic word that translates to "enough" - at the heart of their invigorated campaign to bring democracy to Egypt.

Kifaya has become the name of a movement and the buzzword of what some Western commentators are calling the "Arab Spring" - the rise of democratic expression around the region. In rallies from tiny Bahrain to Egypt, demonstrators are shouting kifaya to dictators, kifaya to corruptions, and kifaya to the silence of Arabs eager for change.

There's no question that the freedom rhetoric of the US and President Bush has helped crack the door for political activism in the Middle East. A look behind the slogan, however, reveals a complex web of secular and Islamist activists who say they share Bush's zeal for democracy, but expect real political change will lead to a repudiation of the US.

In Lebanon, largely pro-Western demonstrators saying enough to the Syrian occupation of their country have been met by demonstrators led by Hizbullah, saying enough to what they view as US meddling in Lebanese politics.

In Bahrain last week, the largest protests in memory saw the country's politically disenfranchised Shiite majority saying enough to pro-American King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa's policies. And in Cairo Wednesday the chants included "Enough to Mubarak, Enough to Bush, Enough to Blair,'' along with "We will not be ruled by the CIA" and "Down with the White House."

It was a reminder that while the US has contributed to the shift in climate in the Middle East, a real democratic opening, in the short term at least, may not serve US interests. Most in the region appear angry at America's close relationship with Israel and its invasion of Iraq, and say that statements prodding allies to reform haven't overcome decades of support for Arab dictators.

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