Leader: The new Arab revolt

Even the repugnant autocrats of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are worried.

On 17 December 2010, a fruit seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in protest against the corruption endemic among Tunisia's elite. Within weeks, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was gone after more than 20 years of despotic rule. In Egypt, as we go to press, President Hosni Mubarak stands on the brink; in Jordan and Yemen, urgent change is a priority. This is the new Arab revolt. The people are mobilising
in mass protests across the Middle East. New technology is aiding them: Twitter, Facebook, video cameras, blogs. Even the repugnant autocrats of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are worried. As they should be. In a special report, starting on page 23, we ask what comes next for the region, its people and the west.