The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The justification for the prize was largely the anti-chemical-weapons group’s work in Syria. “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,” said the Committee.
While there is no doubt that the OPCW is a professional and important organization, it’s premature to issue an award before the results can be obtained about the fate of Syrian president Bashar Assad’s 1,000 tons of chemical weapons scattered around the country. It is worth recalling that the OPCW and the international community apparently failed to confront Turkey about its alleged use of chemical weapons to target the militant Kurdish group PKK.
This is just the latest episode in a long tradition of the Nobel Committee showering recipients with the Peace Prize before concrete results materialized (e.g., President Obama, the European Union).
The award this year — a kind of mirror image of last year’s prize to the EU — is a sign of self-congratulatory failure. The overwhelming deaths (now believed to be near 120,000) and the conflict that’s tearing Syria and the region apart were caused by Assad’s conventional weapons, supplied by the Russians, Iranians, and Hezbollah.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Chemical weapons have killed over 1,000, and conventional weapons have murdered over 100,000. Disturbingly, the West and members of the OPCW have played a role in helping Assad gain his chemical capability, anyway. Germany delivered “dual-use” chemical agents to Assad’s regime over the years, selling military usage agents to the country as late as 2011, including chemicals that can be used for the deadly nerve gas sarin. The U.S. accused Assad of killing over 1,400 people on August 21 with sarin gas.
My preference, however utopian given the left-leaning tendencies of the Noble Committee, would have been to award the U.S. armed forces the prize. After all, the U.S military has achieved remarkable counterterrorism successes over the years — and its threat, not the OPCW’s authority, has made the elimination of Assad’s chemical warfare stockpile possible.
The award to OPCW is a feel-good action without substance. It will be interpreted by Secretary of State Kerry, Russian President Putin, and Syria’s Assad as their victory. The losers are the Syrian people.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.