Susan Rice lightly rebutted a Washington Post story that identified her as next in line for the job of national security advisor on Monday, saying that she is “happy” in her role as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
“I am the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,” Rice said at a panel at Joe’s Pub, a small venue in downtown Manhattan where she was appearing with New Yorker editor David Remnick and writer Philip Gourevitch. “I’m going to continue happily serving in that role as long as the president wants me to.”
“What you read in the newspaper is not necessarily what is bound to happen,” Rice said. “I’m not going to be guided by what is written or not written.”
As for Tom Donilon, the current national security advisor, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told BuzzFeed on Monday, “We’ve seen some speculation out there, but Tom is not leaving.”
Controversy over the Benghazi attack and her response to it sank Rice’s potential nomination as secretary of state this past winter, and she was left to continue in her current job. The Post called the possibility of becoming the National Security Advisor a “dramatic twist of fortune for Rice.”
The rest of the discussion at the panel centered on Syria, Iran, the struggling Israel-Palestinian peace process, conflict in Africa, and Rice’s personal heroes (“my parents”).
Asked if the United States would intervene more in the Syrian conflict, Rice said, “With respect to Syria, we’re constantly debating and wrestling with the challenge of what’s best to be done.”
“We are the foremost provider of assistance to those in Syria,” Rice said, but, “we’ve chosen not to add to the militarization of the conflict at this stage.”
On the topic of Iran, Rice reiterated the administration’s position on prevention as opposed to containing Iran’s nuclear program, and called the recent P5+1 negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan, “actually rather useful.”
Remnick asked Rice about the prospects for a two-state solution and said his impression was that the administration, faced with “limited political capital” in its second term, had decided that “there’s no way” that capital will be spent on negotiating the peace process.
“It’s not just being committed, it’s about rolling up our sleeves and doing what we can to bring it about,” Rice said, noting that the president is visiting the region next week.
“It would be, I think, premature and presumptuous for the president to show up in the region with a peace plan without the benefit of having the opportunity to first sit down and discuss it with leaders from both sides,” Rice said.
Rice said the Arab Spring would be “complex and messy for years to come,” and said the administration was serious about problems in Africa including the conflicts in the Congo and human rights abuses in other countries: “Our interests in Africa are multiple,” she said.
Before walking offstage, Rice took a few French fries from a woman sitting in the front row, having referenced the aroma of the fries a few times throughout the panel. The audience applauded.