It’s the same old problem for us in the West. We mouth the word “democracy” and we are all for fair elections –providing the Arabs vote for whom we want them to vote for.
What explains this glaring disparity? The answer is too obvious to need much elaboration: Iran is a rival of the U.S., and more particularly Israel, whereas Tunisia’s President Ben Ali has been a U.S. collaborator in the war on terror.
In fact, the history of world revolution suggests that this sort of revolutionary cascade is quite rare, and even when some sort of revolutionary contagion does take place, it happens pretty slowly and is often accompanied by overt foreign invasion.
Unlike in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and most other secular Arab autocracies, the main challenge to the Tunisian regime has not come from Islamist opposition but from secular intellectuals, lawyers, and trade unionists. The absence of a strong Islamist presence is the result of an aggressive attempt by successive Tunisian regimes, dating back over a half-century, to eliminate Islamists from public life.