Clinton Optimistic on the Maghreb at CSIS
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the keynote address at an all-day conference on the “Maghreb in Transition” on Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Clinton focused her remarks [PDF] on the broader trends in the region, asking the audience to look beyond the headlines and “weigh the violent acts of a small number of extremists against the aspirations and actions of the region’s people and governments. That broader view supports rather than discredits the promise of the Arab revolutions.” Clinton said that “American foreign policy has long been shaped by debates over how to balance our interests in security and stability with our values in supporting freedom and democracy,” but that in this case, supporting the ongoing democratic transitions in the Middle East is “not a matter of idealism” but rather “a strategic necessity” for the United States.
Clinton briefly addressed the state of political reform and security in the four main Maghrebi countries. In Libya, Clinton said that she was “inspired” by the overwhelming Libyan condemnation of the September 11 Benghazi attacks, as evidenced by the mass protests against violence and the militias in the days after. Clinton lauded the newly inclusive Tunisian government, led by a moderate Islamist bloc that is working with civil society in drafting a modern constitution. Clinton urged Moroccan leaders to continue to follow through on reform promises, but said that she was encouraged that leaders there “have sought to engage all Moroccans and have focused on creating jobs and fighting corruption.” Although there has been “some progress” in Algeria, Clinton said that “Algeria has a lot of work to do to uphold universal rights and create space for civil society.”
The U.S. will continue to assist the political transition process in the Maghreb by focusing on security, economic development, strengthening democratic institutions, and advancing political reforms. One billion dollars in targeted assistance and “a new $770 million fund that would be tied to concrete benchmarks for political and economic reforms” were among several initiatives that Clinton said the administration is advancing to help in these efforts. Clinton concluded by affirming that the best way to honor Amb. Chris Stevens is to ” not retreat. We will keep leading, and we will stay engaged in the Maghreb and everywhere in the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.”