Libya Shifts Momentum Of Arab World Protests Many watchers thought Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi would topple fairly quickly under pressure from demonstrators, as did his counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia. But he has held on, which may be having an effect on popular uprisings in other countries across the region.

Libya Shifts Momentum Of Arab World Protests

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

But Gadhafi held on, and, as NPR's Jackie Northam reports, that may be having an effect on popular uprisings in other countries across the region.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, says that's been disappointing. But Hamid says protesters throughout the Arab world were overly optimistic following the quick demise of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

SHADI HAMID: Wherever there are revolutions, counterrevolutions aren't far behind. And we've seen a series of counterrevolutions not just in Libya but throughout the region, where autocratic regimes are growing more confident, and certainly more confident that they can stay in power.

NORTHAM: Hamid says other regimes in the region are taking a cue from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who launched vicious counterassaults against anti-government rebels.

HAMID: What's happened in Libya has certainly emboldened autocrats for a number of reasons. I think the Gadhafi example tells us that if you fight, you actually stand a chance of staying in power. And if you fight long enough maybe the momentum will shift in your direction.

NORTHAM: Michele Dunne, a Mideast specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the leaders may feel emboldened to use force. If they look at what happened in Libya, they know there likely won't be any backlash from the international community.

MICHELE DUNNE: If other Arab leaders see that the international community, in effect, stood by and did nothing while the Libyan leader not only retook the rebel areas but there's certainly a very strong risk of his exacting revenge on all those who turned against him, if the international community stands by and lets that happen, that's going to be an encouraging message for authoritarian leaders.

NORTHAM: Still, Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor at the University of Maryland, says it's naive for anyone to think that demonstrations would turn into a successful revolution in every country across the Arab world. He says it takes more than just bringing together thousands of people in a square. Telhami says events have unfolded so fast that both the governments and the demonstrators are still trying to figure out how to proceed.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI: There's no question, from the beginning it was clear that there will be adjustments on both sides, the public and the governments, each one is going to try to draw its own conclusions. And governments are now experimenting with different kinds of reactions to see whether this will save them.

NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

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