While the US was spending billions to support Middle Eastern governments, it was also funding groups pushing democracy in the region—organizations that helped train some of the leaders of the recent uprisings, the New York Times reports. Groups funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which promotes democracy in developing countries, taught movement leaders skills in campaigning, election monitoring, and leveraging new media to promote democracy.
“We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking,” said a US democracy advocate. Still, Middle Eastern governments were wary of the groups, WikiLeaks cables show; Hosni Mubarak, in particular, was “deeply skeptical of the US role in democracy promotion,” noted one fromo 2007. Meanwhile, activists cited a double standard: While the US-funded groups “did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us,” said one.