Twenty years ago, I wrote a book about the Middle East, and recently I was thinking of updating it with a new introduction. It was going to be very simple — just one page, indeed just one line: “Nothing has changed.” It took me two days covering the elections in Beirut to realize that I was dead wrong. No, something is going on in the Middle East today that is very new. Pull up a chair; this is going to be interesting. What we saw in the Lebanese elections, where the pro-Western March 14 movement won a surprise victory over the pro-Iranian Hezbollah coalition, what we saw in the ferment for change exposed by the election campaign in Iran, and what we saw in the provincial elections in Iraq, where the big pro-Iranian party got trounced, is the product of four historical forces that have come together to crack open this ossified region.
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