Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship likely wouldn't have survived for more than four decades without the sea of dictators all around, protecting one another and working together to silence dissident voices.
Gaddafi himself saw collapse was inevitable as Arab unity frayed, and he pointed to the fall of Iraq's Saddam Hussein as a sign of things to come. "Your turn is next," he warned fellow leaders in a scathing speech at the 2008 Arab League summit in Damascus.
Back in 2008, Gaddafi's listeners laughed. Now, besides Gaddafi, longtime autocrats have been swept from power by popular uprisings in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, and Egypt. Syria's Bashar Assad and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh are also under fierce pressure.
Ties with autocrats stretch back to the early days of Gaddafi's regime, historians have written. The night Gaddafi, then a junior officer who would later promote himself to colonel, ousted King Idriss, the first planeload of official visitors to land in Tripoli was from Egypt. Gamal Abdel Nasser sent veteran journalist and top adviser Mohammed Hassanin Haikal to take the measure of his neighbor's new ruler.
Gaddafi told Haikal he would seek Nasser's guidance. Haikal promised Egypt's support.
Only four months after Gaddafi's coup, two members of his Revolutionary Command Council turned against him. Egyptian intelligence officers tipped off Gaddafi that he faced a coup, according to historians.
Shortly after that, King Idriss' nephew Abdullah al Abid al Senoussi, also known as the Black Prince, led a force of 5,000 mercenaries from Chad and planned to arm tribes loyal to the king to fight against Gaddafi. This time, it was Tunisians who are believed to have tipped off Gaddafi.
In a recent interview, Gaddafi's former foreign minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam, who defected during this year's rebellion, told the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat that Gaddafi used to pay former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali a monthly salary, and that Tunisian-Libyan cooperation was "at the highest level."
The exchange of security and intelligence information was the only successful sphere of cooperation among Arab governments, asserted Fathi al-Baja, a Libyan political scientist and top political leader for the Libyan rebels. "This is the only thing they could do," he said.
Gaddafi even paid the editors of state-owned newspapers in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere to run "propaganda glorifying him or at the very least to block any channels between the opposition and public opinion," said Fayez Jibril, a Cairo-based founder of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, Libya's oldest opposition group.