NEW YORK CITY, NY — A 33-year-old Norwegian MP who has supported headscarf restrictions in Norway, but once also backed the breaking of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, could soon fill a top anti-terror post at the United Nations Security Council.
High-level U.N. officials tell Breitbart News that Hadia Tajik, a top Norwegian Party MP and the country’s first Muslim cabinet member, is one of the main contenders for the role of Executive Director of the U.N.’s Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), replacing Frenchman Jean-Paul Laborde.
The CTED carries out the policy decisions of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee and gives expert advice to member states and is therefore vital in setting the Security Council’s anti-terror agenda and priorities. With terror crises in places like Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Syria making up some of the Security Council’s top priorities, whoever gets the spot will be a sign of U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s influence as she works to get the unwieldy U.N. to change course on a number of issues.
A discussion on who should replace Laborde could arrive as early as this week, sources said. It is not clear where Laborde could go, as there has been no announcement of an impending retirement or transfer. A spokesman for the Secretary-General told Breitbart News that they had no announcement to make at this time.
“Mr. Laborde is currently doing the job,” the spokesman said.
The possible move comes as Western members of the Council such as the U.S. and U.K. are keen to keep a Westerner in the post, sources say.
However, it is not clear that Tajik would share those views. She has aligned herself with the Palestinian cause in the past, and in 2011, she supported flotillas sent to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israel, which ensures truckloads of goods per day arrive in Gaza, maintains the naval blockade to ensure against Hamas arming itself.
According to Norwegian media reports, Tajik was, in fact, due to have been on a flotilla sent from Norway in 2011, but she eventually backed out, potentially avoiding arrest by the Israeli authorities. She did, however, wish the flotilla “good luck” in its endeavor and was pictured wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh in parliament in 2010 as she supported the cause.
Norway’s News in English website documented that Tajik wore a Palestinian headscarf to parliament to protest Israel and in solidarity with the Gaza Strip:
Labour MP Hadia Tajik was among several Norwegian politicians who wore a Palestinian scarf in the Parliament on Tuesday, as a symbol of frustration and anger over Israel’s convoy attack and solidarity with the civilian population of Gaza, which was severely bombed by Israel last year. Its rebuilding has been hampered by Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
Tajik, however, opposes a boycott. “I think they do more damage than good,” she said. “It’s important to retain open channels to all involved parties, also to the Israeli government. Otherwise we won’t get our message through.”
Tajik has also broken the mold of the “Muslim MP” by saying she is “a politician who is a Muslim, not a Muslim politician.” In the same interview, she said that she does not want to focus on “minority issues,” but “Norwegian issues.” In 2013, she reiterated the government’s ban on female police officers wearing the hijab.
The push for Tajik’s appointment could provide a dilemma for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. Haley could shut down the appointment as one of the veto-holding members of the Security Council, but it is not clear if she would do so, and the decision is likely to be made behind closed doors. Haley’s office declined to comment to Breitbart News.
Haley has made significant progress in shaking up the U.N. since her appointment as ambassador. This week, she celebrated a deal that secured a $600 million cut to U.N. peacekeeping, cutting the U.S. contribution by approximately seven percent.
This has come as part of a broader reform effort by the Trump administration. Haley told a House subcommittee this week that proposed cuts had sent “shockwaves” through the U.N. After the peacekeeping cut was announced, she promised, “we’re only getting started.”
"Just 5 months into our time here, we've cut over half a billion $$$ from the UN peacekeeping budget & we’re only getting started.” pic.twitter.com/LA7IKqupff
— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) June 29, 2017
Haley has also taken the U.N. to task on its anti-Israeli bias, including calling for reform of the notoriously anti-Israel Human Rights Council – threatening that the U.S. will leave the Council if it does not clean up its act. It is not clear if Tajik’s past pro-Palestinian gestures will push Haley to oppose the appointment.
Haley’s influence does not appear to have stalled momentum for potentially controversial decisions at the U.N., however. Despite Haley’s objection, the U.N. chose Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov to head up a new counterterrorism body being set up at Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ behest.
“I don’t want to see them get it,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told Fox News before the appointment. “That’s not something we would cheer for but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got it.”
Guterres also appointed Ghassan Salame to the important post of Special Envoy to Libya last month. Salame is associated with left-wing billionaire George Soros and has sat on the Open Society Foundations board for years.
Meanwhile, economist Jeffrey Sachs — a virulent anti-Trumper who recently called Trump “an idiot” for removing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and who has a long history of writing angry attacks on Trump — had his appointment renewed by Guterres.
Tajik’s anti-Israel dabblings, as well as her membership of the left-wing Norwegian Labour Party, is likely to raise eyebrows with Haley’s office — especially as the Trump administration seeks to keep the U.N.’s eyes focused on the threat of Islamic terrorism, not overblown criticisms of Israel.
It is not clear whether Haley would challenge Tajik’s nomination appointment or let it float, perhaps as a way to bargain through other U.S. priorities. But the head of the CTED is an important post, perhaps more so that the post Voronkov gained recently, as it is vital in setting the anti-terror agenda at the Security Council. Who gets the appointment could be a glimpse as to how the winds are blowing in New York.
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York City. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.