OSLO – A nuclear deal clinched between Iran and six major world powers that caps more than a decade of negotiations has stoked talk of a joint Nobel Peace Prize for Tehran and Washington this year, despite the likelihood of strong objections from some quarters.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who won the prize in 2009 for promoting nuclear non-proliferation, hailed the Iran deal on Tuesday as a step toward a “more hopeful world.” But Israel pledged to try to halt an “historic surrender.”
Awarding the prestigious award to Washington and Tehran would fit a pattern of nuclear-themed peace prizes in years ending in ‘5,’ commemorating the bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
“I think the work of the Nobel Committee … this year just got much easier,” former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt tweeted after the Iranian deal was announced.
But many doubts remain over the appropriateness of honoring Iran, which does not recognize Israel and backs its foes, faces regular international criticism over human rights and was long denounced by Washington as a member of an “axis of evil.”
It may also prove hard to reward Washington just six years after Obama won the prize in the early days of his presidency, a decision widely decried at the time as unjustified. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has led the U.S. team in the talks with Iran, may be deemed too close to Obama to win.
“There are serious limitations when it comes to an Iranian candidate and a U.S. candidate,” Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, told Reuters.
“But I am sure it will be seriously considered by the Norwegian Nobel Committee.”
Asle Sveen, a Norwegian historian and expert on the prize, said the Nobel committee was also likely to be tracking peace efforts between Colombia’s government and Marxist guerrillas.
“We will have two worthy candidates if everything goes right with both deals,” he said.
Harpviken said there would be significant misgivings about honoring Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif or President Hassan Rouhani.
It is not only Israel that views Iran as a mortal threat to its security and to regional peace. Allies of Shiite Muslim Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia have fought decades of sectarian proxy wars in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
But some noted the recurring nuclear theme in prizes handed out at 10-yearly intervals in memory of Hiroshima.
The International Atomic Energy Agency won in 2005, ban-the-bomb scientist Joseph Rotblat in 1995, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in 1985 and Soviet human rights campaigner and nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov in 1975.
Other tips for the 2015 prize, among 276 candidates, have included a Russian newspaper critical of President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis.
Iranian and U.S. officials would be eligible if they were on the list when nominations closed in February. Thousands of people including members of national parliaments, former winners and some academics are eligible to submit nominations.