The United States may have had a bigger role in pro-democracy revolutions in the Middle East than previously known.
The New York Times reports that even as the Pentagon was spending billions of dollars helping finance foreign military and anti-terrorist operations, there were other government-funded organizations helping finance pro-democracy movements in countries like Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen.
These groups, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (groups loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic parties and financed by the National Endowment for Democracy), may have spent significantly less than the Pentagon, but seem to be linked to important figures of many pro-democracy revolutions.
The groups organized technology meetings and coalition-building classes in the United States and abroad, many of which were attended by youth activists who later helped spark revolutions in their own countries.
Entsar Qadhi, a Yemeni youth activist, attended one of these sessions in the U.S.
“It helped me very much because I used to think that change only takes place by force and by weapons,” she said.
The Times reports that some of these government-sponsored organizations caused tensions between the U.S. and Middle Eastern leaders who thought their governments were being undermined.