Susan Rice discusses U.N., Iran Deal


Susan Rice (Left), Former National Security Advisor and US Ambassador to the United Nations, participated in a moderated discussion in WPU Assembly Room on Thursday evening(Photo by Li Yi | Staff Photographer)

The crowd burst out laughing when Susan Rice pointed out that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden talked at another Pitt Program Council event held last year.

“That guy pissed— ruined a lot of my days,” Rice said.

Rice — a former United Nations ambassador and national security advisor to the Obama administration — spoke to students about topics ranging from the Iran Deal to current issues with the United Nations Thursday night in the William Pitt Union Assembly Room.

The event was organized by PPC and moderated by Matt Stalford, a Pitt English writing and communications double major, who is the host of UPTV’s “The Bully PulPitt.” Throughout the night, Stalford asked Rice pre-approved questions in addition to three questions selected from student submissions, which were written on notecards and submitted before the conversation started.

Rice said during her time at the U.N., she learned the five permanent members of the security council — China, Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom — made the most progress when they came to a consensus by lobbying and talking with other nations.

The security council’s five permanent members also have veto power that the other 10 non-permanent members — who are elected for two-year terms — do not. The permanent members may exercise this power to prevent any resolutions they disagree with from being adopted.

Rice said she found through her work that because functional changes to the U.N. security council would give more power to the non-permanent members and come at a high cost to the U.S., the United States is unwilling to agree to these changes.

“We don’t want to give up our veto power and we don’t want to make it more democratic,” Rice said.

When asked about the Iran Deal, Rice came to its defense. She said the United States would be isolated from other countries if it were to pull out of the deal while Iran is still compliant, because the deal is a joint plan between the five permanent members of the security council, the European Union, Germany and Iran.

Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activity to be released of all nuclear-related economic sanctions. She said it would leave the country isolated and “would be a net loss by every calculation.”

“The answer is an unequivocal yes,” Rice said of her support.

Stalford later mentioned how Rice’s strong stance on the Iran Deal struck him as especially powerful.  

“And her take on the Iran Deal, I’ve never seen such a like full-throated defense of it and so that was really cool,” Stalford said.

Toward the end of the evening, Rice said two things she would change about her life, if anything — learning a foreign language and joining the peace corps.

“I wish I had served in the peace corps … I think it is a wonderful way to learn and to stretch yourself,” Rice said.

She also told students to earn an advanced degree for their future careers because it is “increasingly expected and valuable.”

Jocelin Teachout, a graduate student studying public health, attended the event and commented on the importance of learning from government leaders.

“I just feel as if this is very beneficial for students to hear from a direct perspective how an ambassador and [national security advisor] functions because those are two very unique, very connected roles in government,” Teachout said.

Stalford, who avidly reads and speaks about politics and international affairs, said found Rice’s insight on being a high level State Department official “incredible interesting.

“I think her input is just incredible to get, you know, two feet away from me,” he said.

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