(CNSNews.com) – With the controversial Iran nuclear deal under the Trump administration’s microscope, there had been growing speculation that Norway’s Nobel peace prize committee might award this year’s prize to two or three of the agreement’s chief negotiators.
But it did not happen.
The 2017 prize recipient, announced in Oslo on Friday morning local time, was ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
In news release, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it awarded the peace prize to ICAN "for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons."
The announcement reads in part:
We live in a world where the risk of nuclear weapons being used is greater than it has been for a long time," the Nobel Committee said. "Some states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, and there is a real danger that more countries will try to procure nuclear weapons, as exemplified by North Korea.
Nuclear weapons pose a constant threat to humanity and all life on earth. Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.
Through its work, ICAN has helped to fill this legal gap...It is the firm conviction of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that ICAN, more than anyone else, has in the past year given the efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons a new direction and new vigour.
Prior to the prize being announce, the Peace Research Institute Oslo, an independent Norwegian think tank, had put Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at the top of its annual shortlist of predicted winners.
PRIO director Henrik Urdal said the bulk of the credit for the Iran deal – and what he called “the peaceful and successful resolution of the Iran nuclear dispute” – must go to Zarif and Mogherini.
In Mogherini’s case, he added, the achievement “also represents the first major conflict successfully mediated by the E.U.” since her position was created in 2009.
Interestingly, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. team in the negotiations that delivered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, did not feature on the PRIO list.
Last year, Kerry and Zarif were thought to be strong contenders for the 2016 Nobel peace prize, but it went to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end the drawn-out civil war in his country.
President Trump has called the JCPOA “one of the worst deals” he has ever seen. He looks set next week to certify that Iran has not been complying with its commitments under the accord.
The notion that this year’s award for peace could go to a representative of a regime that abuses human rights at home and sponsors terror abroad has raised eyebrows but controversial decisions by the Norwegian Nobel Committee are far from unprecedented.
It has been criticized over the decades for decisions seen as politically motivated (global warming campaigner Al Gore in 2007), premature (President Obama in 2009, less than a year into his first term), or simply inappropriate (PLO terrorist leader Yasser Arafat in 1995, and ardent chlorine gas warfare exponent Fritz Haber in 1918.)
Asked Thursday whether the White House was aware of the possibility JCPOA negotiators could be named Nobel peace prize winners, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied, “I think we've been very clear what our position is on the deal. That hasn’t changed just because some people may receive an award for it.”
Iran has one Nobel peace prize laureate, former judge and human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi, who won the award in 2003. Ebadi, who lives in exile, has long been a critic of the regime in Tehran.
This year there are more than 300 nominees for the peace prize, although many names are not made public.
Other prominent ones include the U.N. High Commission for Refugees for its work in dealing with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, and the secular Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet and its exiled editor, targets of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on dissent.
Another is the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group working in rebel-held areas of Syria. The State Department has credited the group with having saved more than 40,000 lives during the conflict; the Assad regime and Russia call its people terrorists posing as humanitarians.
The prize is handed out at a ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of the award’s founder, Alfred Nobel.