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Tunisia, Egypt, Arab world need bold US support for democracy, not mixed messages

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IN PICTURES: Tunisia riots

Most American policymakers understand that Arab regimes will fall – eventually – but no one thought it would happen under their watch. The US, preoccupied with more important matters, such as investing in a floundering Middle East peace process, has once again found itself in the weak position of reacting to, rather than influencing, key regional developments. Those hoping for a policy “reorientation,” in the wake of Tunisia, are likely to be disappointed. The initial signs are not encouraging.

US support of authoritarian Arab governments

On Jan. 25, Egypt arguably saw, according to some estimates, the largest pro-democracy protests in its history. The “day of revolution” exceeded all expectations, signaling that surprises are becoming the Arab norm. In that context, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement that “our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable” seemed oddly retro and uncannily similar to what President Jimmy Carter said about the Shah’s Iran in 1977.

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