It turns out the uprisings shaking the Arab world didn’t take Barack Obama by surprise. Last August, Obama ordered a secret study into the possibility of such unrest, the New York Times reports. His advisers concluded that countries from Bahrain to Yemen to, yes, Egypt, were ripe for popular revolt, and tried to devise ways to push for such political change, even in allies like Egypt, without causing regional instability.
“You saw a set of trends,” one official said, including growing youth populations, stagnant economies, and greater access to social networking technology. The White House even held secret weekly meetings with the CIA and State Department on the matter. No country was discussed in detail—except Egypt. “There’s no question Egypt was very much on the mind of the president,” another official said. “You had all the unknowns created by Egypt’s succession picture—and Egypt is the anchor of the region.” This speech from Hillary Clinton was a result of those discussions. (Read more North Africa unrest stories.)