At UN, Susan Rice has led US policy on Syria, N Korea
United Nations: Susan Rice, tapped by President Barack Obama to become the next National Security adviser, has been at the center of the international feuding over Syria`s disastrous civil war as the outspoken US ambassador at the United Nations.
She is expected by bring her blunt negotiating style to her new, higher-profile post at a time when Russia and the United States are struggling find a political way out of Syria`s conflict, one of the most intractable foreign policy challenges facing the Obama administration.
Rice, 48, also brings controversy to the position: She dropped out of the running to become secretary of state after Republicans heaped blame on her for the Obama administration`s bungled account of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack that killed four Americans at the US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.
The furor over Benghazi overshadowed Rice`s top accomplishments as UN ambassador: Her successful push in 2011 for Security Council approval of international intervention in Libya`s internal conflict and tougher sanctions against Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programmes.
It`s unclear whether Rice`s appointment to the post signals a significant shift in Obama`s foreign policy, particularly in Syria. Although Rice backed greater US involvement in Libya, administration officials have made clear they don`t draw direct comparisons between the situation in Syria and the push to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Obama plans to announce today that Rice will replace Tom Donilon as his national security adviser in July, a job that does not require Senate confirmation, according to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.
Rice had been the front-runner for secretary of state but dropped out of contention when it became clear she would not gain Senate confirmation to that post, which went to John Kerry.
Rice aggressively spearheaded Obama`s foreign policy during her 4 and a half years as his top UN diplomat, promoting democracy in the Middle East and toughening sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
She gained a reputation for being blunt, sidestepping the niceties and courtesies that are a hallmark of diplomatic discourse when she deems necessary to make a point. She has sparred repeatedly with Russia`s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who can be equally blunt. In private, Rice is known for her good sense of humour, which she displayed a few years ago at the UN Correspondents Association`s annual awards gala.
A graduate of Stanford University, Rice was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and served in the Clinton administration in various capacities from 1993-97, rising to assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
Obama said Rice is one of the most qualified and experienced experts in the field of foreign policy in the country.
"Put simply, Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership. So thank you, Susan, for being willing to take on this next assignment. I`m absolutely confident that you`re going to hit the ground running," Obama said in his Rose Garden announcement.
Someone who has served with distinction as the US ambassador to the UN, he said Rice is the most suitable to be his national security advisor.
"With her background as a scholar, Susan understands that there`s no substitute for American leadership. She is at once passionate and pragmatic. I think everybody understands Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human dignity, but she`s also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately," Obama said.
"She`s helped to put in place tough sanctions on Iran and North Korea. She has defended Israel. She has stood up for innocent civilians from Libya to Cote d`Ivoire. She`s supported an independent South Sudan. She has raised her voice for human rights, including women`s rights," he said.
"And I know that after years of commuting to New York while Ian, Jake and Maris stayed here in Washington, you will be the first person ever in this job who will see their family more -- (laughter) -- by taking the national security adviser`s job.
A former Brookings Institute Fellow, Rice has been a key part of Obama`s foreign policy team ever since he announced his presidential run in 2007.
Rice is well known for advocating strong relationship with India.
As the US Ambassador to the UN, Rice, maintained a close personal relationship with Hardeep Puri, the then Indian Ambassador to the UN, when India was a member of the UN Security Council for two years.
Rice`s appointment has been welcomed by US lawmakers.
"Susan Rice has the right combination of strategic vision and credentials to serve as a National Security Adviser," House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Congressman Adam Smith said.
Senator Bob Corker said, "Now that the President has made
a decision on his replacement, I had a very good conversation with Ambassador Susan Rice to let her know I look forward to working with her on shaping important foreign policy and national security issues as she serves in her new role."
"She has performed an exemplary job representing the US at the United Nations -- winning hard-fought battles to increase sanctions on Iran and North Korea, among other major accomplishments," said Congressman Eliot Engel, Ranking Member of House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society`s vice president of Global Policy Programs felt it would be a mistake to view Donilon`s departure as a diminishment in the US focus on Asia.
"In fact, in President Obama`s second term we are seeing a concerted effort to carry through with policies focused on deepening political, economic, and military engagement across Asia," she said.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that there has enormous amount of positive reaction to Obamas`s decision to make Rice a national security adviser.
"That includes -- Senators (John) McCain and Graham and Ayotte who obviously have played a role in the discussions about the Benghazi talking points saying that they will be working with her as national security adviser," Carney said.
Rice, an Obama confidant, was his first choice for the position of Secretary of State.
But due to the strong opposition from the Republicans, who are highly critical of Rice`s statements in the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack, Obama could not nominate her for the post, as it required confirmation by the Senate.
The position of National Security Advisor does not require a Senate confirmation.
Besides, the US President announced that he would nominate Pulitzer Prize-winning author Samantha Power as the new US ambassador to the UN.