Actual Expert: Iraq War Set Back Tunisia and Egypt

Via Matt Duss’s twitter, Shibley Tehlami, a real expert on the Arab World, batters the already bruised neocon revisionists:

When the Bush administration used the Iraq War as a vehicle to spread democratic change in the Middle East, anger with the United States on foreign policy issues — particularly Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict — and deep suspicion of U.S. intentions put the genuine democracy advocates in the region on the defensive. The outcome has been that, every year since the Iraq War began, polls of Arabs revealed their sense that the Middle East is even less democratic than before.

As we witness the remarkable and inspiring events in both Tunisia and Egypt, one has to wonder whether these events could have taken place even earlier had there not been the diversion of the Iraq War — and whether these upheavals might have swept away Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship without shots being fired from the outside.

Even in Iran, where there is obvious public opposition to the clerical regime, as indicated by the contestation over the 2009 presidential election, one wonders whether the Iranian people might succeed if the regime were robbed of its ability to point fingers at the West.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Some expert. The appearance of American legions on Iraqi soil delayed democratic uprsings in Tunisia and Egypt? Democracy advocates were put “on the defensive”? Nonsense. Nobody took Bush’s pronouncements about democracy seriously to begin with. Any “delay” in Tunisia and Egypt was caused by the agents of repression in those two countries, or the loose bowels of the democracy advocates, or some combination of both.

  2. He is both right and wrong in my opinion. In fact 9/11 and the twisting of the screws by the US security state did ratchet security up across the region. It also opened a spigot of money.

    That also drained our reserves and the riots we see today might have been treated differently had we been in fatter times. We might have upped food aid to these stressed populations, helping our puppets suppress dissent. But, we’re broke, NATO has been shredded, and they’re broke and less disposed to support military adventurism.

    No one has acutely put the problem on these concomitant factors, speculation fuels commodities spikes and a bankrupt West. Resource poor countries will fall, the rich will be able to ride this out.

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