“We have no other option than moderation,” Rouhani said during the campaign. What this will mean in practice isn’t clear, but Rouhani has urged in his writings that Iran engage with the West, rather than depend on Russia and China.
Protesters have also shaken the Islamic populism of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He has been an “authoritarian rock star,” in the words of William Dobson, the author of “The Dictator’s Learning Curve.” But even Erdogan triggered a backlash after years of squeezing the Turkish media, courts and military. “The shared experience of repression, combined with collective frustration at mounting top-down efforts to regulate public life . . . brought citizens from different walks of life together” in Turkey, wrote Emiliano Alessandri, Nora Fisher Onar and Ozgur Unluhisarciklion the Foreign Affairs Web site.
Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.
This new wave of activism in the Middle East isn’t pro- or anti-American. It’s something else — a movement of empowered citizens who don’t want the old secular dictatorships of Hosni Mubarak’s era, and don’t want a new Islamic authoritarianism, either. This core of “people power” surfaced in the initial “Arab Spring” of 2011, but a chill developed as the Muslim Brotherhood gained control in Egypt and chaos prevailed in Libya and Syria. Despite these setbacks, this week showed there is still a popular movement for democratic change that resists dictation from anyone.
“I have never seen anything like this, not even during February of 2011. This is a genuine popular movement, no organisation whatsoever,” tweeted Egyptian writer Bassem Sabry late Tuesday.
For U.S. officials, recent events are a reminder that the Middle East is still in the early stages of a long-running process of transformation. Morsi’s election in 2012 offered the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to show that it could govern Egypt effectively. It has flunked the test — and the Egyptian military has lost patience with the failed experiment.
On America’s Independence Day, we celebrate the triumph of our democracy. But David McCullough reminds us in his book “1776” that in January of that revolutionary year, George Washington despaired that “few people know the predicament we are in.” It took America another 12 years to write and ratify a workable Constitution. In the Middle East, the convulsive democratic transition is just beginning.
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