The Arab Street doesn't exist. Really, it doesn't exist. It's the dumbest meme ever invented by the mainstream media, but unfortunately it's part of the conventional wisdom. Its hold is so strong that this non-existent entity has some sort of influence over world events. It has an influence over US foreign policy, too, because analysts and policy makers believe it exists, though there had never been a shred of evidence to prove it.
Sure, there's always the close-up shot of 100 angry men protesting after Friday prayers in the streets of wherever, burning a US flag, but the wave of revolution hoped for again and again hasn't reached beyond Iran's borders.
Instead what we have is an idea peddled at moments of convenience by news outlets, leftist academics and media commentarians. It's like a rhetorical threat. If we fight, the argument goes, the "Arab Street will rise up" against friendly governments, etc. The chart below shows the number of times the phrase "Arab street" occurs per month since January 2001. I restricted my data, using a subset of the Factiva database that only includes major U.S. newspapers.
The Arab Street materializes during the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and then, suddenly disappears. It's reappearing right now, as Israel bombs Hezbollah. In an month or two, it will have been put to rest until the US or Israel or some other western power needs to assert itself in the Middle East.
In other words, it's a figment of the imagination of a bunch of old hippies and neo-Marxists in government and the media who are projecting their failed revolutionary hopes on a fantasy population of "Arabs" who intend to rise up and seize control of their governments. These Arabs don't exist. They're not going to be waving pitch forks or storming the palace of whatever king or president-for-life represents their government.
Revolution is a Western idea, based on Western models of politics and government. Islam is both religion and government. Shariah is divine law. Revolution against government is, in essence, revolution against divine will. It takes a lot of effort to convince a Muslim populace to undo their government. Islamist have been working at this since the early days of the Muslim Brotherhood, and they haven't been very successful. Iran was the first (and only), but it's going to take more than just Iran (Shiite and non-Arab) to convince Arabs to follow suit. In other words, it's not going to happen.
I used to argue this point to fellow government analysts, but they didn't understand. Spoon fed the messianic hope of Middle Eastern revolution by worthless academics, government analysts think in the very Western ideas of neo-Marxist and post-colonial theory. And so they believe in the power of the Arab Street, an idea perpetuated in the mainstream media with little thought to its source or meaning.