US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is lined up to become President Barack Obama’s national security adviser after the disappointment of being forced out of contention for secretary of state, it was reported on Sunday.
According to the Washington Post, Rice has emerged as the “far and away” favourite to replace incumbent national security adviser Thomas Donilon later this year.
If true, it would mark a speedy political rehabilitation for the senior diplomat, whose bid to succeed Hillary Clinton in the State Department was derailed under a barrage of Republican criticism over her potential nomination.
Having been widely tipped to become Obama’s second-term secretary of state, Rice was forced to pull out from consideration in December amid complaints over her handling of the Benghazi consulate attack in which four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
Rice had initially suggested during TV interviews that the assault was sparked by a demonstration over a US-made anti-Muslim film. She later acknowledged that this assessment was wrong and that the attack, coinciding with the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, had been mounted by al-Qaida-linked groups.
In a subsequent inquiry into the affair, former CIA director David Petraeus told congressional hearings that Rice was not aware of the terrorist link initially, having been handed a set of talking points that pointed towards an angry mob as being responsible.
But scenting a major political scalp, leading Republicans, including senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, threatened to block her nomination and piled on the pressure for the White House to withdraw her name.
In the event, Rice removed herself from the running, writing to Obama asking him to no longer consider her in the face of a “lengthy, disruptive and costly” nomination.
The bruising encounter had led some to conclude that Rice, who remains in place as the US’s most senior representative at the United Nations, would no longer be in contention when it came to high-profile political appointments.
Despite occasional TV interviews – including a self-deprecating turn on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart – the diplomat has largely flown below the media radar of late.
But the Washington Post cites an administration official “familiar with the president’s thinking” as suggesting that she is likely to be in the White House inner circle within the end of the year. The newspaper was told that despite taking a lower profile she remained very much in Obama’s thinking when it came to his national security team.
An announcement could come after the US assumes the rotating presidency of the UN security council in July, it was reported.
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