Mirages in the Desert

Appearing before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in DC, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed Arab leaders to make the reforms their people are calling for. Going for the metaphor, Clinton said that the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt could be “just a mirage in the desert” if leaders don’t make changes. She also said Washington intends to help in the transition to more democratic societies, citing a fund set up for the purpose (which has already earmarked $150 million for Egypt). In one of the administration’s most wide-ranging speeches on the upheaval in the Arab world, the secretary of state also took on those who have called Washington’s approach to the uprisings inconsistent: “We understand that a 'one-size fits all approach' doesn’t make sense in such a diverse region at such a fluid time.”

Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, sat down with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah yesterday in an attempt to ease the tension in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Riyadh already canceled Secretary of State Clinton’s scheduled visit to the country while criticizing Washington for being naïve when it comes to Arab uprisings. Other than that Donilon delivered a letter from President Obama, little information was released about the national security adviser’s meeting with the king.

In the lead-up to his boss’s speech tonight on plans to reduce the deficit, White House spokesman Jay Carney took a more Obama-like stance against the current budget proposal by Paul Ryan, a Republican and the House Budget Committee chairman. He said that the budget, in minimally impacting the richest Americans in its quest to fuel spending cuts, “fails the test of balance, and balance is essential.” The administration has come under fire for allegedly caving on many of its principles for the sake of compromise.

On North Korea, Admiral Walter Sharp, the U.S. commander in South Korea, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pyongyang probably won’t give up its nuclear weapons because the regime views them as key to its survival. Sharp put it bluntly in response to a question from Senator John McCain: “To answer your question directly: No, I do not see that he will give up his nuclear capability.” Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth, among other officials, are meeting with South Korea’s nuclear envoy this week to discuss the North Korea situation.