Inside Politics

An optimistic view on the Arab Spring

When I think about what's going on in the Arab world - and I'll up-front with you, I trend to the pessimistic - it worries me.

What if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over in Egypt? Will Israel go ballistic?

Is the Syrian regime going to collapse and drag the region into chaos?

Will Turkey invade to stop that from happening?

Will Iran do something to tick off Saudi Arabia because of Bahrain?

And what about all those protesting Bahrainis? What ever happened to them?

Is Moammar Qaddafi going to hold onto power? And if he does, will that break NATO?

And you know what? I'm not alone asking these questions. There are plenty Westerners with bigger brains than mine pulling their hair out wondering if we are on the edge of another Middle Eastern abyss.

Rami Khouri has been listening to their frantic queries and has this very Californian advice:

"Take it easy."

Khouri is the director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. He's probably better known for his commentary in the Beirut Daily Star, the Washington Post, the Financial Times and the Boston Globe.

So when it comes to intelligent analysis of all things Arabic, Rami knows his. When he speaks, important people... and me... listen.

That's probably why his lecture on the "Arab Spring" (he prefers "Arab Revolt") at the Ottawa headquarters of the International Development and Research Centre was filled to capacity.

His presentation was remarkably optimistic. Although he is a little worried about Syria, he says events are bound to be chaotic because this is a great and transitional moment in modern Arab history. Here's how he described the event that started the revolt in the Arab world - the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia:

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And for Western governments, he had some advice beyond the Eagles' lyrics above:

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