Diplomat reveals White House fury over Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize

Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is said to have harangued Norwegian envoy for ‘fawning’ over President

US Correspondent

When Norway awarded Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, just weeks into his presidency, it was seen not as a mark of his achievements, but as yet another symbol of the impossibly high expectations he had set for his tenure. Now, a senior Norwegian diplomat has revealed that, far from feeling honoured by the award, the White House was furious.

Morten Wetland, the former Norwegian ambassador to the UN, claimed in an article for the business paper Dagens Næringsliv this week that, when the Prize was announced, Mr Obama’s then-chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel confronted and “dressed down” the country’s ambassador to the US, Wegger Strömmen. Mr Emanuel reportedly accused Mr Strömmen and Norway of “fawning” over the freshly elected Mr Obama.

Mr Wetland, now a partner in an Oslo lobbying firm, wrote: “My most embarrassing day in the United Nations over the years I was the Norwegian ambassador there was the day the award to US President Barack Obama was announced. My colleague in Washington received an overhaul from Obama’s chief of staff.”

The White House may have believed that the prize was little more than a ploy to lure the popular new President to Norway, Mr Wetland told the country’s English language news service The Local. “My guess is that the President’s staff want to be in control and not to be forced into a position that they have not been seeking themselves,” he said. “It could have been perceived that someone was consciously or subconsciously thinking about the prospect of having Obama visit Norway. Obama wouldn’t have visited Norway if it hadn’t have been for the Peace Prize.”

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year by the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee, who are appointed by the country’s parliament. Though the committee is officially independent of the Norwegian government, it is nevertheless made up of former MPs. The current chair of the committee is former Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland. Mr Jagland, who is expected to be replaced this year, led the committee in 2009 and in 2012, when it was criticised for awarding the Peace Prize to the European Union.

President Obama had been in office for less than a fortnight when the deadline for nominations for the 2009 Prize passed, but the panel praised the new US leader for the promises he had made during his election campaign: to fight climate change, to support international diplomacy, and to begin to rid the world of nuclear weapons. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the committee said in its citation.

Mr Obama was shocked when informed of the Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Institute. “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honoured by this prize,” he said at the time.

Mr Emanuel is now the Mayor of Chicago, but it was in Washington DC that he earned the nickname “Rahmbo” for his combative approach to politics. Early in his career he famously sent a large dead fish to a pollster who had displeased him. He demonstrated his flair for international diplomacy as an aide to Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal: when British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington on an official visit and was preparing to appear alongside Mr Clinton at a press conference, Mr Emanuel is said to have offered him the immortal words of advice: “This is important. Don’t f*** it up.”

Mr Wetland declined to disclose exactly how he found out about Mr Emanuel’s encounter with Mr Strömmen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Support / Projects Engineer

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner & Wood Machinist

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This busy local Joinery company...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence