Democracy in the Arab World, a U.S. Goal, Falters
By HASSAN M. FATTAH
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, April 9—Steps toward democracy in the Arab world, a crucial American goal that just months ago was cause for optimism—with elections held in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian areas—are slowing, blocked by legal maneuvers and official changes of heart throughout the Middle East.
Analysts and officials say the political rise of Islamists, the chaos in Iraq, the newfound Shiite power in Iraq with its implication for growing Iranian influence, and the sense among some rulers that they can wait out the end of the Bush administration have put the brakes on democratization.
“It feels like everything is going back to the bad old days, as if we never went through any changes at all,” said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor in chief of Forbes Arabia and a prominent Saudi columnist and advocate. “Everyone is convinced now that there was no serious or genuine belief in change from the governments. It was just a reaction to pressure by the international media and the U.S.”