The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the group that is in charge of enforcing the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention worldwide and is currently working to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile per the ultimatum given by the United States.
While the group has worked for two decades to dismantle the world's collections of chemical weapons, several critics have hesitated to praise the decision.
Current weakness in OPCW leadership, argues leading Middle East scholar Stephen Zunes, lies in its failure to challenge countries such as the U.S., Israel, and Egypt over their well-documented stockpiles.
This weakness, Zunes argues, is a direct result of the Bush administration's role in pushing out former OPCW leader Jose Bustani, who pressed for the inspection of U.S. chemical weapons facilities "with the same vigor it did for other countries" and pressed "to get Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention and open their facilities to surprise inspections [that] would undermine U.S. claims that Iraq was still developing them."
The current OPCW, Zunes argues, "has been far weaker and more averse to challenging great power prerogatives, as indicated by the fact that they are currently in the process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal while the vast stockpiles belonging to U.S. allies Israel and Egypt remain intact."
Adding a caveat, Zunes noted, "Nevertheless, the fact that the OPCW exists made it possible to avoid a U.S. attack on Syria and the likely disastrous consequences that would have resulted."
Similarly, Fredrik Heffermehl, author of The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted, said today:
This is a halfhearted step in the right direction. The Nobel Committee is correct in stating that disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel´s testament, but why does it always hide that what Nobel wished to support was a great plan for how to create a durable peace? Nobel’s vision was to abolish not only certain weapons, like the chemical, but all weapons in all countries. Demilitarize international relations — not only civilize war but abolish it.
Other nominees for this year's peace prize included Malala Yousafzai, 16-year-old education activist who survived a gunshot by the Taliban, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, among many others.
Following 2009's "unwarranted award to Barack Obama," as commentator Richard Silverstein writes, "the Nobel Committee has shown its increasing irrelevance by not picking someone like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden. It seems to want to stay away from controversy, but how else could you really push for peace?”