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Susan Rice: Please Don't Judge Our Policies Yet

4:14 PM, Sep 12, 2009 • By EMILY ESFAHANI SMITH
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"We have a crucial stake in Afghanistan," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington D.C. On this eighth anniversary of September 11th, the ambassador took aim at Nancy Pelosi's remarks about Afghanistan when Rice said, "For us to dismiss the threat of defeating this extreme regime is extremely short-sighted." Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House, said Thursday that she sees little support for upping the troop levels on Afghanistan, essentially threatening to stymie an expected White House request for more troops this fall.

For Rice, it is "premature to make judgments on the course of policy we've embarked upon because we're only at the initial stages of that policy." In February, the president ordered 17,000 more troops to the troubled country and in March the president sent another 4,000 troops and outlined a new strategy for quelling the insurgency there.

Rice spoke at the St. Regis as the United States's begins its month-long presidency of the U.N security council. For the first time ever, the United States president will chair the United Nations Security Council meeting scheduled for September 24th, which means that the U.S. will have a large say in setting the Council's agenda, according to Rice. That agenda will be primarily focused on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. Despite Iran's recent refusal to compromise on its nuclear program, and despite North Korea's recent announcement to the Security Council that "extracted plutonium is being weaponized," Rice insisted that no one country would be the focus of the meeting. "A larger set of issues important to our national security" are on the agenda, and Rice wants to see the heads of state on the Security Council strengthen and renew their "commitment to the NPT," or non-proliferation-treaty, which is due to be reviewed in 2010.

On these matters, Rice responded that the June sanctions on North Korea are "the toughest on the books for any country today," and that "we'll evaluate the nature of Iran's response and [determine] how to respond to their response."

While Rice's stance and the Obama administration's stance on the U.N. is that it is an "imperfect but indispensable" institution that the current administration is trying to reform, there are still basic problems that it must tackle: most notably, China and Russia. On the matter of Iran, pushing the "reset" button -- as with Russia -- and inviting a whole delegation of statesmen to the White House this summer -- as with China -- does not seem to be paying off for the U.S. in terms of tangible foreign policy goals. Russia¹s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, made it clear yesterday Russia would not support any intensification of sanctions on Iran, and China remains skeptical of any further sanctions.

To this, Rice responded that the U.N.'s Iran sanctions, prior to North Korea's recent sanctions, were the "toughest on the book," and given the fact that Russia and China supported the sanctions against the DPRK, their comments on Iran "need to be seen against that backdrop" -- in other words, if they were on board with North Korea, they may be on board with Iran. And we all know how well those "toughest on the book" sanctions have worked in both cases.