The obstacle is simply deeply rooted in the region's societies and specifically in their condition as extremely theocratic societies. After five decades of studying and writing about this region's problems I have no doubt that the first step towards the democratisation of the Middle East and North Africa states is to secularise such societies. Once the majority of the sons and daughters of the societies of this region believe in the separation between the state and religion, the political lives of this region will be on the path of democratisation.
The external parties that were imagining that the immediate democratisation of this region's countries is doable must relinquish such a Utopian target and focus on the mechanisms that could assist the societies of this region to surpass its current theocratic condition that impedes the targeted separation between religion and the state. The mechanisms that would move the sons and daughters from their current mixture between religion and the state are combination of cultural, media, educational and political schemes.
The focus on tailoring and introducing such schemes must replace the blind endeavours such as the so-called Arab Spring and the far from wise attempts to force the change of regimes similar to the catastrophes that occurred in Libya and Syria. In an ideal and ethical globe, the international society would tailor schemes combined with all economic and trade deals to create the appropriate societal atmosphere for such an imperative transformation from the current condition where religion is an involved factor in all public life spheres to the targeted separation between religion and the state.