The grassroots revolutions that swept Arab governments across the region over the past three months will “fade” away if leaders don't meet the demands that set off the rebellions, says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking on Tuesday at the annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum, the American leader said the recent upheavals that toppled at least two longtime governments may be slowing down. Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, for example, appears to be gaining the upper hand in a bloody civil war that has taken the lives of some 10,000 people in his country over the past two months, despite the imposition of a no-fly zone by NATO in a belated attempt to support the rebels.
Clinton contended that protest movements across the region had made it clear, with the help of Internet social networking sites, that Arab youth share the same thirst for freedom, dignity, and opportunity as others around the world. The Internet also allowed them to organize and express their unwillingness to be silenced by tanks and missiles, she said, according to the Associated Press.
She warned that unless Arab leaders fulfill the people's demands for greater democracy and economic opportunity, the prospects for real reform would be “a mirage in the desert.”
“Will the people and leaders of the Middle East and North Africa pursue a new, more inclusive approach to solving the region's persistent political, economic and social challenges,” she asked. “Will they consolidate the progress of recent weeks and address long-denied aspirations for dignity and opportunity? Or, when we meet at this forum in one year or five years or 10, will we have seen the prospects for reform fade and remember this moment as just a mirage in the desert?”