The Tunisian uprising, which succeeded in toppling Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, has brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalisation, thus restoring the Arab peoples’ faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny.
It is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.
It is true that Ben Ali’s flight from the country is just the beginning of an arduous path towards freedom. It is equally true that the achievements of the Tunisian people could still be contained or confiscated by the country’s ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power.
But the Tunisian intifada has placed the Arab world at a crossroads. If it fully succeeds in bringing real change to Tunis it will push the door wide open to freedom in Arab word. If it suffers a setback we shall witness unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power.
Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed.
Despite a rare protest in Oman and cash and food being doled out in Kuwait, experts say the region will remain quiet.
Washington is desperately trying to head off a United Nations resolution condemning Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the disputed West Bank territories that is presenting Barack Obama with one of the most acute dilemmas of his presidency.