Wrong Again About Iraq: Invasion Has Not Sparked Larger ˜Democratic Revolution in the Middle East

Both before and after the Iraq invasion, President Bush predicted that Saddam’s fall would lead to democracy flourishing throughout the Middle East:

A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. [2/26/03]

Iraqi democracy will succeed — and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran — that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. [11/6/03]

And the advance of freedom in the Middle East requires freedom in Iraq. By helping Iraqis build a lasting democracy, we will spread the hope of liberty across a troubled region, and we’ll gain new allies in the cause of freedom. [12/12/05]

But as has been the case with other administration forecasts about the Iraq war and its aftermath, the prediction of a subsequent “global democratic revolution” was overly optimistic.


“Steps toward democracy in the Arab world,” the New York Times reports today, “are slowing, blocked by legal maneuvers and official changes of heart throughout the Middle East.” The New York Times provides several specific examples:

– “In Egypt, the government of President Hosni Mubarak, which allowed a contested presidential election last year, has delayed municipal elections by two years after the Muslim Brotherhood made big gains in parliamentary elections late last year, despite the government’s violent efforts to stop the group’s supporters.”

– “In Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has refused calls that the country’s consultative council be elected, while the arrest last month of Muhsin al-Awaji, a government critic, raised questions about how far the country’s newfound openness would go.”

– “In Jordan, where King Abdullah II has made political change and democratization mandates, proponents see their hand weakened, with a document advocating change put on the back burner.”

– “Parliamentary elections in Qatar were postponed again, to 2007, while advocacy groups say that laws regulating the emergence of nongovernmental organizations have stymied their development.”

– “In Yemen, the government has cracked down on the news media ahead of presidential elections this year, intimidating journalists who had been considered overcritical of the government.”

– “In Bahrain, where sectarian tensions between the majority Shiite population and the Sunni-dominated government prevail, a flurry of official maneuvers apparently intended to reduce the Shiite vote has preceded the municipal and parliamentary elections expected this year.”

– “And in Syria, promises for reforms have been followed by a harsh crackdown on the opposition.”