President Biden Nominates New US Ambassador to Iceland

US President Joe Biden has nominated Carrin Patman to be the United States’ ambassador to Iceland, RÚV reports. Patman is a former trial lawyer, currently serves as the chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, and was a major donor to Biden’s presidential campaign.

The US’ last three ambassadors to Iceland have all been political appointees and fundraisers for the presidents who have nominated them. Prior to this, Robert C. Barber was appointed by President Barack Obama and Jeffrey Ross Gunter was appointed by President Donald Trump.

Over the last few decades, US presidents have generally given the country’s more comfortable ambassadorial seats to political supporters, says Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir, professor of political science at the University of Iceland. The president’s ambassadorial nominations must be approved by the senate.

“Today, they look at this as something of a sinecure,” she continued, saying that the opposition party tends to approve political appointees as a sort of quid pro quo. It’s a system that politicians seem largely satisfied with, but among “those who work within the foreign service and have worked their way up, there’s a fair amount of criticism,” said Silja Bára, “and of course within watchdog organizations as well.” Critics argue that “you can buy an ambassadorship.”

President Biden has now nominated around 90 ambassadors, 60-70% of whom could be considered political appointees.

Icelandic Officials Congratulate Biden, US Ambassador Thanks Trump

Icelandic officials have congratulated 46th United States President Joe Biden on his inauguration yesterday. The Prime Minister, President, and Cabinet Ministers of Iceland took to Twitter to send good wishes to President Biden. United States Ambassador to Iceland Jeffrey Ross Gunter announced yesterday that he is leaving the position, thanking President Trump for the opportunity in a Facebook post that has since been taken down.

Officials Mention Peace and Friendship With US

“Congratulations to President @JoeBiden and Vice President @KamalaHarris on this historic day,” Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir tweeted. “We here in Iceland send you our warmest wishes and I look forward to working with you both towards a sustainable, peaceful, and socially just future.” Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna also referenced a peaceful future in her greeting to the new President and Vice President, tweeting “May the next four years bring peace and unity.”

Iceland’s President and Minister for Foreign Affairs both referenced the nation’s long history of diplomacy with the United States in their tweets to President Biden and Vice President Harris. Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson tweeted: “My heartfelt congratulations on your inauguration @JoeBiden @POTUS and @KamalaHarris. We look forward to work with you and [Secretary of State nominee] @ABlinken on strengthening our longstanding #Transatlantic bond and friendship based on shared democratic values.” As President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson put it, “The United States and Iceland have enjoyed decades of transatlantic relations and a friendship which we look forward to continuing with you.”

Controversial Ambassador Says Goodbye to Iceland

US Ambassador to Iceland Jeffrey Ross Gunter also posted on Twitter and Facebook yesterday, revealing that he would be leaving his post and thanking President Trump for the “tremendous opportunity.” The posts have since been deleted. Ambassador Gunter became an increasingly  controversial figure throughout last year. He was denounced last July for referring to SARS-CoV-2 as the “Invisible China Virus.”

CBS News reported that same month Gunter had applied for special permission to carry a gun. The CBS article also described an increasingly fractured work environment at the US Embassy in Reykjavík. In October of last year, Gunter accused Icelandic newspaper Fréttablaðið of irresponsible journalism and “fake news” after Fréttablaðið reported that a staff member of the US Embassy had contracted COVID-19.

Icelandic Ministers Condemn Attack on Democracy in United States

Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Iceland’s foremost government officials took to Twitter last night to condemn the attack on the United States Capitol. The building was breached by hundreds of Trump supporters, many of them armed, as the ceremonial counting of electoral votes took place confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win.

Attackers Egged On By Trump, Says Prime Minister

As reports of the attack were published last night, Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir tweeted: “An attack on Capitol Hill is an attack on democracy. We are witnessing disturbing scenes of violence in Washington DC. Liberty, democracy and decency must be respected.”

The Prime Minister later shared her reactions to the event in an interview with RÚV. “We’re talking about an attack on the parliament building and an attack on democracy and I was of course incredibly stunned when I saw the first reports of it,” she stated. “There we are seeing this great institution that is simply about to confirm the results of a democratic election and it is attacked at the urging of the outgoing president.” Katrín added that it was important that representatives returned to work and finished confirming the election, standing their ground in that regard. She called the attackers’ actions “anti-democratic.”

Icelandic President, Ministers Address Attack

Katrín was not alone among Icelandic officials to condemn the attack. Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson tweeted last night: “Shocking scenes in #WashingtonDC. Any attacks on #democratic institutions and undermining of rule of law should be condemned. Outcome of democratic elections must be respected.” Around the same time, Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir tweeted: “The events in USA unfolding now are an affront to democracy. @realdonaldtrump must condemn the mob and demand they cease the violent protests and leave the Capitol.” Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir added her words to those of her colleagues, calling it “sad and surreal to watch this attack on democracy.”

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was more subtle in his discussion of the events. Guðni tweeted this morning: “As Congress confirms election of @JoeBiden, I reiterate my congratulations to the next President of the United States, legally elected by the people. 1000 year old wisdom from Althing, world’s oldest nationwide parliament, still true: If we tear the law apart we tear peace apart.”

 

Iceland’s Prime Minister and President Congratulate Biden on Victory

Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Iceland’s Prime Minister, President, and Minister for Foreign Affairs have sent their congratulations and best wishes to Joe Biden on his victory in the US election.

“Congratulations @JoeBiden on your win as president elect of the United States of America,” Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir tweeted on Saturday evening. “I wish you well in office and look forward to further strengthening our countries relations on crucial matters such as climate change and human rights.”

In a separate Tweet, Katrín stated she was “delighted” to congratulate Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, adding “I wish you all the best and look forward to your leadership in office.”

Iceland’s President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson send his best wishes to Biden and Harris yesterday. According to a press release from the President’s Office, his greetings emphasised the countries’ “deep-rooted co-operation and friendship and long shared history.” Although the United States are one of the largest democracies in the world and Iceland one of the smallest, they share many important values such as freedom of thought and expression and equal rights for all citizens, Guðni stated. He also congratuled the two in a Facebook post.

Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson tweeted his congratulations to the pair yesterday, emphasising the long-standing friendship between the US and Iceland. Guðlaugur met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just last week.

Harris’ Election a “Major Milestone,” Says Prime Minister

Katrín called Harris’ election a major milestone in gender equality and expressed her hope that the United States would once again become party to the Paris Agreement under Biden’s leadership. “Biden has talked a great deal about climate issues, for example,” she stated. “I hope that the United States will return to the table in the international community and become party to the Paris Agreement again so we can see changes there.”

Eight Percent of Icelanders Would Vote for Trump

Just under eight per cent of Icelanders who responded to a recent survey stated they would vote for Trump in the upcoming US election if they could cast a ballot, Fréttablaðið reports. Nearly 82% stated they would vote for Biden. Eight per cent did not know who they would vote for and just under 3% chose not to answer the question. The survey was conducted by Zenter for Fréttablaðið newspaper, and its results are in line with other European countries, according to one Icelandic political scientist.

“Icelanders have always supported the Democrats over the Republicans, as Europeans [have] in general,” stated Eiríkur Bergmann, professor of political science at Bifröst University. He adds, however, that Europeans’ distrust of Trump is greater than has ever been the case for any Republican president. “We need to look back to the situation around George W. Bush during the invasion of Iraq to find something close to this. But Bush was still more popular than Trump.”

More Icelandic Men than Women Support Trump

The survey results showed a significant gender difference: 14% of male respondents said they would vote for Trump while only 4% of female respondents stated they would. Support for Trump increased with age, with the exception of the very youngest age group (18-24). Trump enjoyed the most support from Icelanders aged 65 and older, though still just 15% of that age group stated they would vote for him if they could vote in the US election in November.

Centre Party Supporters Most Likely to Vote Trump

Respondents’ political affiliation in Iceland also showed some correlation with their support of each US candidate. Not a single respondent who supports the Social-Democratic Alliance, nor a single supporter of the Progressive Party stated they would vote for Trump. Those who supported the Centre Party were most likely to say they would vote for the sitting US president, though they were still in the minority within their party. While 55% of the Centre Party’s supporters stated they would vote for Biden, 45% preferred Trump.

The Centre Party was formed when a group of politicians split from the Progressive Party in 2017. Eíríkur stated the survey “shows there was a real difference between those who left the Progressive Party and joined the Centre Party at the time,” and points to the split being rooted in ideological differences rather than simple party politics.

The survey was sent to 2,500 individuals between September 23 and 28, and had 1,281 respondents (51%).