The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 is to be awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.
During World War One, chemical weapons were used to a considerable degree. The Geneva Convention of 1925 prohibited the use, but not the production or storage, of chemical weapons. During World War Two, chemical means were employed in Hitler’s mass exterminations. Chemical weapons have subsequently been put to use on numerous occasions by both states and terrorists. In 1992-93 a convention was drawn up prohibiting also the production and storage of such weapons. It came into force in 1997. Since then the OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and by other means, sought the implementation of the convention. 189 states have acceded to the convention to date.
The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law. Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia.
Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons. By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons.
The committee offers no credit to Bashar al-Assad.
But suppose John Kerry had not unwittingly initiated the process leading towards Syria giving up its chemical weapons stockpile, and suppose Russia had not seized on the political opportunity the the U.S. provided for removing the threat of military action, and suppose the Syrian government had not quickly recognized that it would be strengthening its own grip on power by giving up CW. Would the OPCW have just received the Peace Prize? Almost certainly not.
The crucial decision in the process leading to that choice was made by Assad.
Just as George W Bush once honored another war criminal, Ariel Sharon, as a “man of peace,” it surely won’t be long before Nobel laureate Barack Obama offers the same praise to Syria’s president.