Rice was nominated by US President George Bush on Tuesday to succeed Colin Powell, who tendered his resignation the previous day.


Rice has been a consummate insider in the Bush White House and is known to be very close to the president, leading some experts to worry that he might not be in a position to hear dissenting views.

 

Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, told Aljazeera.net on Wednesday that Rice's appointment is a victory for the hawkish neo-conservatives in the Bush administration.

 

He also warned it could lead to more wars against Middle Eastern countries which are at odds with the United States.

 

Neo-conservatives

 

"I was hoping that Bush would have learned from the mistakes of his first term, got rid of the neo-conservatives and put in more moderate people," Atwan said.

 

"But the only reasonable person who would have challenged the neo-conservatives [Powell] is now gone. So this is a victory for the hawks. It means that the views of the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have prevailed. We can now expect more wars and mayhem during the next four years."

 

"[Rice's appointment] means that the views of the likes of Paul Wolfovitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have prevailed. We can now expect more wars and mayhem during the next four years"

Abd al-Bari Atwan,
Editor, Al-Quds al-Arabi

Atwan added that "Condoleezza Rice has no sympathy with the aspirations of the Arab people.

 

"We can expect the same tough policy towards Iraq and the same unequivocal support for the extremist policies of Ariel Sharon in Palestine.

 

"I also think that Bush will consider Iran and Syria as unfinished business and if they don't comply with US foreign-policy demands, he will hit them directly or at least allow Israel to hit them."

 

Dissident purge?

 

James Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, told Aljazeera.net that Rice's appointment is symptomatic of a wider purge within US government bodies.

 

"I think dissenting voices have been sidelined," he said. "We are currently seeing a purging of dissident voices within the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and this has already happened within the National Security Council.

 

Bush said Rice's main duty will be
to prosecute the 'war on terror'

"There is a distinct possibility that Condoleezza Rice's presence in the State Department will not be conducive to the kind of internal debate that Powell represented and that would not be a good thing."

 

He added: "Very few secretaries of state have shaped US foreign policy with the notable exceptions of Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker.

 

"Rice has no real record on foreign affairs and she is not an ideologue. I see her as less of an architect of foreign policy than an implementer of the president's vision."

 

Diplomatic priorities

 

When Bush nominated Rice as the next head of the State Department, he said the "secretary of state is America's face to the world, and in Dr Rice, the world will see the strength, the grace and the decency of our country".

  

Listing US diplomatic priorities for his second four-year term, Bush said Rice would prosecute the global "war on terrorism", pursue efforts to end the Arab-Israel conflict, and help spread democracy across the Middle East.

 

"Rice has no real record on foreign affairs and is not an ideologue. I see her as less of an architect of foreign policy than an implementer of the president's vision"

James Zogby,
President,
Arab American Institute

Rice would also inherit efforts to get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and North Korea to dismantle its atomic programmes, as well as efforts to quell deadly chaos in Iraq in time for elections set for January.


If confirmed by the Senate, Rice, 50, would become the first black woman to hold the top cabinet post, and the second woman overall after Madeleine Albright, Powell's predecessor.

 

Although she is expected to win confirmation, Rice may face tough questions from Democrats on the apparent absence of weapons of mass destruction cited to justify the war in Iraq, and on the failure to thwart the September 11 attacks.