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ABC News is reporting that Obama confidant, former Assistant Secretary of State and member of President Clinton’s National Security Council, Susan Rice is slated to be the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. This is great news. The fact that President-elect Obama is entrusting US diplomacy at the United Nations to such a close adviser is a sure sign of the high priority to which the new administration will place US-UN relations. Deeper still, her background as a regional Africa expert will come in handy. About 2/3rds of all discussions at the Security Council are about situations in Africa.

More broadly, Rice is known in foreign policy circles as an innovative, forward thinking foreign policy wonk who pays special attention to the connectivity of today’s threats and challenges. As a diplomat, I expect her to be fairly sharp-elbowed, which is not a bad quality for Turtle Bay!

Here is how UN Foundation head Tim Wirth described Rice to Spencer Ackerman a couple of weeks ago.

Rice saw connectivity in the world’s problems, instead of viewing them through the traditional prism of individual state power.

“She was one of the few people to live in the foreign-policy world who understood global issues, transnational issues like human rights, climate change and terrorism,” said Wirth, who worked with Rice when she was at the NSC and who now heads the United Nations Foundation. “The foreign-policy community is largely about political relationships. That’s what drives the [typical] foreign-policy world. But the new one is transnational problems, problems that don’t have passports.”

UPDATE: I should also note that Rice has been a leading critic of the current administration’s Darfur policy, which she described as a policy of “bluster and retreat.” When she sets foot at first avenue, I expect her to focus like a laser beam on Darfur. The fledgling peacekeeping mission and stalled peace process could certainly use the help.

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