Bashar al-Assad "Jokes" He Should Have Won the Nobel Peace Prize

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 14 2013 11:07 AM

Bashar al-Assad Makes a "Joke"

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A man holds pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reading 'We are all with you' as Syrians and members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions gather outside the US embassy in Pretoria on October 11, 2013 during a protest

Photo by Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

On Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded this year's peace prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the relatively little-known international agency currently on the ground in Syria working in unfathomably difficult conditions to ensure the Assad regime's chemical stockpile is destroyed. As my colleague Joshua Keating explained at the time, the 16-year-old Hague-based organization "seems like such an obvious choice for the prize that, in retrospect, it’s hard to imagine why it didn’t get more media speculation in the last few weeks." An infinitely less obvious choice: the man who controls that stockpile, President Bashar al-Assad. Hence this "joke" (via AFP; British spelling theirs):

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad has jokingly said that he should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, a pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper reported on Monday. The prize, which was given to the global chemical weapons watchdog on Friday, "should have been mine", Assad said, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper.
Assad made the remark "jokingly", the daily said, as he commented on the award on Friday of Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is working in Syria to destroy the Assad regime's massive chemical arsenal by mid-2014. Al-Akhbar also reported that Assad had proposed in 2003 that all countries in the region should hand over all weapons of mass destruction.
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Things that are not a joke: The death toll of the two-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war that now is estimated at 115,000. Roughly 5,000 of those fatalities are believed to have occurred last month, something that suggests that the bloodshed has not been slowed by last month's chemical-weapons deal that followed this summer's deadly sarin gas attack in greater Damascus.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.