Ever since those first cables from Tunis leaked on Dec. 7, 2010, informing the world that Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's extended family was a "quasi-mafia" and that his son-in-law's "over the top" mansion housed not only an infinity pool but also a tiger who fed on "four chickens a day," WikiLeaks has been intimately bound up with the revolutions. Indeed, the Tunisian uprising began only 10 days later, and its shock waves have spread across the Arab world.
If it's too much of a leap to say that the cables gave rise to the protests, they certainly provided a lens through which the Arab public could, finally, get a candid glimpse as to how Washington saw their leaders: Omar Suleiman's brief tenure as vice president of Egypt was illuminated by a few cables discussing his toadying relationships with Israel, the CIA, and President Hosni Mubarak. And embattled Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's image in the Western world took on a lurid spin after the leak of an early cable about his "personal proclivities." Not only did WikiLeaks reveal his voluptuous Ukrainian nurse to the world, it encapsulated his decades of rule: "While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability," read the cable, "Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods."
Now that the revolutions are entering their fourth month, however, with two governments overthrown and others tottering on the brink, are the WikiLeaks cables merely reporting from a world that doesn't exist anymore? Or can WikiLeaks still be read with an eye toward the new Arab future? Foreign Policy went back through the files to dig up the best of the Arab world WikiLeaks: the cables with impact on today's revolutions, and tomorrow's.
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