Courtesy Reuters

After a long absence, a strategic player has returned to the Middle Eastern stage: the people. In Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, and Libya, protesters are demanding either comprehensive reform or total revolution. Only once before in modern history has a populist wave of this magnitude swept the region.

Half a century ago, a series of Arab nationalist movements shook the ground beneath the feet of Arab rulers. The immediate catalyst for that revolutionary shock was the Suez crisis. Throughout 1955, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's charismatic leader, championed pan-Arabism, challenged Israel militarily, and mounted a regionwide campaign against the lingering influence of British and French imperialism. By the end of the year, he had aligned Egypt with the Soviet Union, which provided him with arms. After Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in July 1956, the European powers, in collusion with Israel, invaded Egypt to topple him. They

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