I found a phrase in the headline of today’s Washington Post article (Feb. 14) that reads "Mubarak loyalists change stripes to fit into the new Egypt." Though I interpreted the meaning of change one’s stripes as change sides, I wasn’t sure.
I checked up dictionaries at hand. No dictionary carries change stripes.
So I checked online dictionaries of free Merriam-webster, Cambridge dictionary online, and the thesaurus. com. None of them carries change stripe, except reference.com says refer to “Leopard cannot change its spots”, which seems to me not applicable to the implication of the phrase used in the above headline.
Can anybody tell me the exact meaning of change stripes? Does stripe mean a flag? Is this phrase well-established, though none of dictionary I've checked registers this phrase?