The most telling aspect of the anti-regime demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world, Robert Kaplan says, is what they are not about:
They are not about the existential plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation; nor are they at least overtly anti-Western or even anti-American. The demonstrators have directed their ire against unemployment, tyranny, and the general lack of dignity and justice in their own societies. This constitutes a sea change in modern Middle Eastern history.
Of course, such was the course of demonstrations against the Shah of Iran in 1978 and 1979, before that revolution was hijacked by Islamists.
The differences between 2011 in Egypt and 1978 in Iran are more profound than the similarities, Kaplan says. Importantly, there’s no Khomeini in Tunisia or Egypt, and the current leaders of Tunisia and Egypt aren’t seen as toadies to American and Israeli interests.
American interests aren’t safe though:
Were demonstrations to spread in a big way to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a catastrophe could be looming. A more enlightened, pro-American regime than the one now in Jordan is hard to imagine. As for the Saudi royal family, it is probably the worst possible form of government for that country except for any other that might credibly replace it. Imagine all that weaponry the United States has sold the Saudis over the decades falling into the hands of Wahhabi radicals. Imagine Yemen were it divided once again into northern and southern parts, or with even weaker central control issuing from the capital city of Sanaa. The United States would be virtually on its own battling al Qaeda there.
(Hat tip to Kalim Kassam.)