A good joke can ease a world of tension. A bad one can amplify it. Syrian President Bashar Assad found that out when he decided to try out some new material regarding the Nobel Peace Prize and his chemical weapons stockpiles.
According to the Agence France-Press, Assad "jokingly" said that he should have been awarded this year's Peace Prize rather than actual winner, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee announced Friday it would bestow the 2013 honor on the OPCW for its "extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons."
Few people outside Assad's inner circle will find the joke funny or appropriate. More than 100,000 people have died since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, and OPCW inspectors are currently working to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons in the wake of an attack that killed hundreds.
Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the OPCW, warned Monday that fighting near chemical arms sites is preventing inspectors from carrying out their work. Uzumcu urged fighters to impose ceasefires that would allow inspectors to access the sites.
"They change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be co-operative and not render this mission more difficult. It's already challenging," the director-general told the BBC.
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This photo has been <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/tour-worlds-worst-photoshop-propaganda/39932/" target="_hplink">lampooned</a> plenty, but a lot of weird stuff is going on here. Most egregiously, despite sunlight flooding the photo from background windows, Assad doesn't cast a shadow. Maybe dictators don't have shadows like vampires don't have reflections? However, the lack of shadow on the rug becomes even more obvious when you turn your attention to the drop shadow outlining Assad's right leg. Unless he's just levitating. Also, the table. Somehow, that shadow is even worse than Assad's! Perhaps it's actually a magic carpet that doesn't hold shadows. Yeah, that's <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkYNBwCEeH4" target="_hplink">the ticket</a>. And as <em>The Guardian</em>'s image expert, David McCoy points out, the two men <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jul/12/syria-doctor-odd-photo-assad" target="_hplink">aren't even looking at one another</a>. "Assad [right] appears to have had the edge detail on his hair smoothed out, in contrast to the harsh, overly sharpened edges visible elsewhere on his body," McCoy says. Clenched fists! <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, new governor of the central city of Hama Anas Abdul-Razzaq Naem, left, is being sworn in in front of Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, in Damascus, Syria, Monday, July 11, 2011.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)
Apparently, the fountain of youth bubbles somewhere in Damascus, if you believe the Syrian president's face in this official photo. Glossy women's mags would be put to shame by the smoothness of Assad's skin in this snapshot. You won't find a wrinkle or blemish around the whole of this face, save for the area immediately around his eyes. The skin tone and evenness are almost unnerving. Then again, you can see where they stop, a hair to the left of his collar and just above his tie, where a sudden change in color stands out. And it's hard to say if any special effects have enhanced Assad's hairline; at 46-years-old, the Syrian president is likely experiencing some hair loss. Assad also doesn't seem to have been gifted with a strong chin, but thanks to what looks like a nice Photoshop shadow, his jawline is positively Clooney-esque here. Unfortunately, he no longer has an Adam's apple. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad takes part of a religious ceremony marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, at al-Rawda mosque, in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday Feb. 5, 2012.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)
"This referendum is as legit as the tone and texture of my forehead." More importantly, note the possible human being/strange poster on the right side of the photo. It could be a banner, though reasons why a photo of a random guy's back would be prominently featured in election coverage remain murky. The lack of hues/smoothness/undefined vanishing point and depth of field on the poster make it all the more questionable. <em>In this Feb. 26, 2012, file photo provided by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad casts his ballot next to his wife Asma at a polling station in Damascus, Syria, during a referendum on the new constitution. </em>(AP Photo/SANA, File)
Assad's ability to maintain a killer hairline and a flawless complexion at his age, all while juggling the stress of a crackdown that has left at least <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/syria-crisis-death-toll-17000_n_1658708.html" target="_hplink">17,000 dead</a>, by some estimates, is just otherworldly. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad prays during a ceremony marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, at al-Rawda mosque, in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. </em>(AP Photo/SANA)
"Yes, everyone in Syria is happy!" No real funny business seems to be in play in this photo -- just selective imagery at its finest. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, waves to his supporters after he attended the prayer of Eid Al Adha, at the al-Nour Mosque in the northern town of Raqqa, Syria, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)
Fahd Jassem al-Freij and Bashar Assad
This is the latest development in Syrian state images. This photo comes from the alleged <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/syrias-bashar-assad-whereabouts_n_1686381.html" target="_hplink">swearing in</a> of Syria's new Defense Minister, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, after his predecessor was killed in a bomb attack on Wednesday. Not quite as bizarre as last year's thousand-yard stare-fest, but still strangely sterile. Again, clenched fists, same stance. The shadows aren't quite as strange as the previous photo, but a couple of things still look fishy. The table seems to head toward the correct vanishing point, but the reflection of the door handle and frame in the floor seems sharply angled. Ostensibly, there's a chandelier behind Assad, per the reflection in the floor behind him, and another somewhere in front, per the highlight on the top-left corner of the door. That's unclear, however, given that there's no highlight on the table. Perhaps the chandelier is just above the camera. And perhaps that cream-colored pillar is just out of frame. The placement seems strange, and the highlight, too, with what you see in the mirror. But who needs mirrors when you've got that floor? You could do your makeup in that floor; and with that lighting and the help of SANA, you'd probably look like a Disney Princess when all is said and done. It probably sounds like gunshots when you walk in heels in that mausoleum. But Assad wouldn't know anything about that. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, Syria's new Defense Minister, left, is sworn in before Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, July 19, 2012.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)