National Beat Reporter
The government shutdown, which has left many Americans perplexed and concerned for the state of the federal government, has largely distracted Congress and the White House from operations abroad. Prior to the increasingly fiery negotiations that led to the shutdown, attentions were focused on civil war and chemical attacks in Syria. The issue’s prevalence had subsided until Friday, Oct. 11, when the Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded the honor to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a small organization that has worked closely with the United Nations to destroy chemical weapons in Syria since Oct. 1.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the committee received some criticism that it was awarding a group that had yet to demonstrate its peacemaking ability. Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland addressed these concerns by explaining that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had been selected in April, prior to any involvement in Syria.
On Oct. 11, the same day the Nobel Peace Prize committee announced the award recipient, the United Nations Security Council opted to further back up efforts with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to dismantle Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, proposed the plan, but urged that UN workers tread lightly.
Overall, the international community expressed approval of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s recipient selection despite other extraordinary nominees. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the organization’s vital role in Syria.
“The Nobel Committee has rightly recognized their bravery and resolve to carry out this vital mission amid an ongoing war in Syria,” Kerry said.
After the recent spotlight, all eyes are certainly on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to eradicate the Syria crisis.
Syria faced international scrutiny when the nerve agent sarin gas was used in an attack on neighborhoods in Damascus, the capital of Syria, on the morning of Aug. 21. Sources estimate that as many as 1,300 people died in the attack. Both U.S. and French intelligence indicated that any body other than the Syrian government and Assad regime could not have carried out the attack; however, both Syrian and Russian officials denied these accusations, instead blaming Syrian rebel groups.
On Sept. 10, President Obama delivered a speech in which he stated that he would not hesitate to initiate military intervention, citing a prevalent international treaty as justification; however, despite having executive authority, Obama said he required support from Congress.
“In 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity,” Obama said. “And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.”
Ultimately a strike was not necessary, largely because Russia and the U.S. joined forces and negotiated a deal in which Syria agreed to eliminate their stockpile of chemical weapons.
“The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use,” said Obama in the same speech.
Under a U.S.-Russia deal, Syria must halt all chemical weapon production by November and eliminate the chemical weapons program entirely by June of 2014; however, according to Al Jazeera, chemical weapon experts believe that Syria has a startling stockpile of 1,000 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve gas. For now, all hope is that the Nobel Peace Prize committee did not underestimate the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ abilities.