Tim Lavis, News Editor
Secretary of State and rumored 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has kept an eye to the Middle East in recent months, focusing on the broad range of conflicts, collapses, and fledgling beginnings in that tumultuous region. In her recent trip to Istanbul for the Friends of Syria talks, the nation’s highest-ranking diplomat drew a hard line on the problems in Syria and Iran. However, Clinton has recently demonstrated that she can use the proverbial carrot as well as Teddy Roosevelt’s famed “big stick.” The Secretary of State continues to back and expand programs aimed at building equity and modern economies in the Middle East.
Although Syria has accepted a US backed plan to end the bloody internal conflict that has cost over 9,000 lives since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the Syrian government has, thus far, shown no signs of actually implementing the six-point peace plan. Clinton, who in March suggested to a Senate committee that Syrian president Basher al-Assad could be labeled a war criminal, said of Syria’s failure to employ the plan: “nearly a week has gone by, and we have to conclude that the [Assad] regime is adding to its long list of broken promises.” In the wake of the apparently failed peace plan, both Arab and Western nations have pledged funds and communications equipment to Syria’s fledgling rebel forces. The move to fund the rebels represents the international community’s increasingly aggressive stance against Assad’s government.
Clinton’s aggressive stance on Syria comes at a time when the US and other nations are preparing to resume talks over Iran’s nuclear program. While the Iranian government insists that its nuclear program is aimed at building nuclear power plants, the United States has asserted the potential dangers inherent in allowing that Middle Eastern nation to develop the capacity for nuclear weaponry. Clinton has flatly stated: “we are determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” While Clinton and other Western and Arab nations firmly oppose Iran’s nuclear ambitions, however, they continue to assert the possibility of a peaceful resolution. Clinton has adamantly opposed the suggestion of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, the Secretary of State has asserted “Iran’s window of opportunity to seek and obtain a peaceful resolution will not remain open forever.”
In addition to cracking down on regimes that the US sees as problematic, the State Department is continuing to expand its efforts to modernize a developing Middle Eastern economy while promoting equity in the region. Last year Clinton spearheaded a program dubbed “Tech Women,” which brings adult high-tech workers from the Middle East and North Africa to the US for training and mentoring at US companies. The State Department recently announced that it will be expanding the program with a spin-off project called “Tech Girls.” The new program will bring 25 Arabic speaking girls ages 15-17 to Silicone Valley for five weeks of intensive training and networking in high tech fields. The program will include training in cloud computing, robotics, programming, and mobile communication.
Continuing to provide development initiatives while drawing a hard line with problematic governments, Clinton’s multifaceted diplomatic strategy in the Middle East is focusing on a combination of aid and sanctions to achieve American goals in the region. With tensions coming to a head in nations still struggling to redefine themselves in a post-Arab Spring Middle East, the effectiveness of Clinton’s strategies are yet to be seen. One thing is for sure: the long term consequences of the State Department’s efforts will play a significant role in the future of that volatile region.