Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday (01/13/2011) bluntly challenged Middle Eastern leaders to open their political systems and economies, warning that “the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Clinton said the region’s states need to share more power with civic and volunteer groups to overcome the problems of exploding populations, stagnant economies and declining natural resources.
Citing unemployment rates of 20% and higher among the young, she said “people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order” and are demanding reforms. She said too few Middle Eastern governments have long-term plans to tackle the threats.
She bore down on the corruption, warning that ordinary citizens in many nations were aware, as they were not decades ago, that most of many countries’ wealth is funneled to a tiny elite, rather than to the many.
“Corruption is a cancer and eats away,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s comments reflected the longstanding views of U.S. administrations, but they were unusually blunt in tone and striking coming from an administration that has been accused of not doing enough to promote democracy and human rights.
The moderator of the meeting asked Clinton why regional governments should listen to American advice about reform when the Obama administration has been unable to deliver its ally Israel on peace with the Palestinians.
Clinton said other countries shouldn’t expect Israel, or other countries, to heed U.S. wishes.
“I wish there were a way we could tell a lot of counties what they should do,” she said.