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Spain's Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on the Arab Awakening and How the West Should React
CNBC.com | December 09, 2011 | 02:58 PM EST

A year ago, the personal immolation of a young street vendor, having had enough abuse and humiliation from government officials, started a popular revolt that not only brought an end to decades of dictatorship in Tunisia, but set in motion a chain reaction that challenged the stability and the future of an entire region .

After Ben Ali was deposed in Tunisia, Mubarak was deposed in Egypt. Shalel in Yemen faced massive demonstrations demanding his dismissal. Bahrain’s Shia majority also revolted against its Sunni rulers. In Libya, Bengazi rebels initiated a military campaign that, after six month of fighting, put an end to 40 years of Gaddafi’s dictatorship. And weekly demonstrations forced the King of Morocco to open up the political system and change his country’s constitution.

Suddenly, almost overnight, a calm and submissive region was boiling with popular demonstrations, overthrowing long-term, well-rooted dictatorships.

Probably because the changes were unexpected and seemed to point to replace repression with freedom and tyranny with democracy, they were enthusiastically embraced by Western countries. The U.S. let Mubarak, a long term ally, fall without a blink of an eye, in order to show support to the people; and NATO engaged in a six month aerial campaign to help change the regime in Libya.

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