Clinton Addresses U.S. Stance, Role in Arab Spring
Speaking at a National Democratic Institute dinner honoring activists for democracy and human rights, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed foreign policy in the wake of the Arab Spring. Clinton suggested that “the greatest single source of instability in today’s Middle East is not the demand for change… [but rather] the refusal to change,” citing Yemen, Syria, and Egypt as examples.
Regarding Egypt, Secretary Clinton said, “If—over time—the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest, and Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity.” She added later that “when unelected authorities say they want to be out of the business of governing, we will look to them to lay out a clear roadmap and urge them to abide by it.”
When speaking about Bahrain, Clinton stated that “mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away,” adding that “meaningful reform and equal treatment for all Bahrainis are in Bahrain’s interest, in the region’s interest, and in ours.”
She pledged that the United States will work with Ennahda in Tunisia “because we share the desire to see a Tunisian democracy emerge that delivers for its citizens and because America respects the right of the Tunisian people to choose their own leaders.”
In general, Clinton expressed that “democratic advancement is not just possible but a necessary part of preparing for the future” of the Middle East, and “without reforms, we are convinced [the Middle East's] challenges will only grow. So it is in their interest to begin now.” Clinton stressed that all parties “must abide by the rule of law and respect the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and assembly; they must respect the rights of women and minorities; they must let go of power if defeated at the polls.” “What parties call themselves is less important to us than what they actually do,” she said, referring to the role of Islamic political parties in the political transition.
When commenting on the U.S.’s role in the Arab Spring, Clinton said the United States has “the resources, capabilities, and expertise to support those who seek peaceful, meaningful, democratic reform. And with so much that can go wrong, and so much that can go right, support for emerging Arab democracies is an investment we cannot afford not to make.” When “autocrats around the world [wonder] if the next Tahrir Square will be their capital square … some are cracking down when they should be opening up.” Clinton also expressed as the pressure on [local movements in the region] increases, our support will not waver,” and “we cannot waver in our commitment to help the people of the Middle East and North Africa realize their own God-given potentials and the dreams they risked so much to make real.”