Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared on Monday that the Obama administration would work with ascendant Islamist parties of the Muslim world answering one of the central US policy questions resulting from the Arab Spring.
Delivering an address at the National Democratic Institute Clinton offered a forthright embrace of the democratic changes enveloping North Africa and the Middle East at a time when the euphoria of the successful revolutions from Egypt to Libya is giving way to the hard and unprecedented work of creating stable democracies.After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region her message was that the US would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.
While she reached out to the religious-rooted parties expected to gain power in Egypt Tunisia and elsewhere she said nothing about changing US policies toward Hezbollah and Hamas which have performed well in Lebanese and Palestinian elections but are considered foreign terrorist organizations by the United States.
"For years dictators told their people they had to accept the autocrats they knew to avoid the extremists they feared," Clinton told an audience that included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "Too often we accepted that narrative ourselves."
After almost a year of protests and crackdowns armed rebellion and civil war the Arab world s upheaval has left a jumbled mosaic of liberals and Islamists military rulers and loose coalitions of reformers. No country appears unalterably on a path toward democratic governance and for the people of the region and the United States the stakes of long-term instability are high.
The US interests including the security of oil supplies military relations and Israel's defense have forced the Obama administration to engage in flexible diplomacy with different messages for different countries.