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Medvedev makes a play for Arctic riches

Dmitry Medvedev stepped up the brewing territorial conflict in the Arctic today by announcing that Russia would formalize its northern border. The competition for energy resources in the Arctic region has been heating up as global warming has made them more accessible.

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Under international law, the five countries with Arctic claims -- Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland) -- can exploit resources up to 200 miles off their coastlines. The Russians say their continental shelf extends under the North Pole, where they used a miniature submarine to plant the Russian flag last year in a widely reported publicity stunt.

There could be as many as 10 billion tons of oil at stake in the Arctic seabed and today, Medvedev linked the region to Russia's energy future:

Our first and fundamental task is to turn the Arctic into a resource base for Russia in the 21st century. Using these resources will entirely guarantee Russia's energy security. [...] We must finalize and draft a law on setting the southern border of the Arctic region.... This is our responsibility to future generations."

The folks in Canada, which has a massive Arctic claim as well, aren't taking this very well. Canada was already looking north uneasily after the invasion of Georgia and has been conducting military excercises in the region. Some commentators are now calling for Canada to increase its activity in the Arctic in order to bolster its territorial claim. There is apparently no ban on weapons in the area so it's not hard to imagine things getting out of hand.

As for the United States' own Arctic rights, I can't help thinking that this is an international topic that the governor of Alaska might actually be expected to know about. Maybe Sean Hannity could ask her for us tonight?

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Egypt's grumpy old jihadists

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Egyptian author Hussam Tammam has an interesting piece in the newly redesigned Carnegie Arab Reform Bulletin about how the 20-30,000 jihadists who have repented and been released from Egypt's prisons in recent years are faring.

Short answer: not good. It's hard to find jobs, they are having trouble reintegrating into society, and neither their fellow Islamists nor secular forces seem to trust them.

That said, these are men over 50s, Tammam points out, and they "lack the ability to communicate with members of the young generation who would take up arms in any confrontations with the regime." He concludes that "there is no reason to fear that released jihadists will reorganize and return to violence."

One has to wonder what it is that keeps Osama bin Laden (51) and Ayman al-Zawahiri (57) going after all these years.