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Peace Prizes, Russia

A Yemeni woman is one of three recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.  BBC News reports that Tawakul Karman was awarded the prize for her work in advancing the right’s of women and her courageous efforts to bring peace and democracy to Yemen during the Arab spring. A splice of the article:

Speaking to the BBC in April 2011 in Change Square in Sanaa, the heart of the popular demonstrations against Mr Saleh, Ms Karman said she was astonished at the protests: “I could never imagine this. In Yemen, women are not allowed out of the house after 7pm, now they are sleeping here. This goes beyond the wildest dream I have ever dreamt, I am so proud of our women.”

She is a member of Yemen’s leading Islamist opposition party, the Islah – a conservative, religious movement that calls for reform in accordance with Islamic principles.

She has campaigned to raise the minimum age at which women can marry in Yemen.

She has been jailed several times for her activism, pilloried in the official media and attacked. Unusually for a woman in Yemen, Ms Kamran wears a headscarf not a full face veil.

I sort of stopped paying attention to the Nobel Peace Prize when President Obama won one for giving a good speech, but I feel good about this one.  (And don’t get me started on the Nobel Prize for Literature)

In other news, Russia’s President Medvedev spoke about his state’s use of its veto on a Security Council resolution aimed to put pressure on the Syrians.  Al Arabiya explains that Medvedev is critical of the Syrian government, but does not want change to be externally applied.  It also notes that

The Kremlin chief had previously accused some in the Syrian opposition of having ties to “terrorists” in comments underscoring the extent of Russia’s divide with the West in the closing months of his term.

which is something that I had not heard before.  Certainly, the outcome of Russia’s acquiescence to the Libya resolution, which has now transformed into proactive war to achieve regime change, makes Russia incredibly reluctant to allow the same types of resolutions to pass against Syria.

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Saudi Arabia has a flare up, China and Russia take a stand on Syria

This may or may not be ominous, but in Saudi Arabia there were some isolated riots in the oil-rich coast city of Qatif, according to Al Jazeera.  Details are limited.  The Saudis are blaming the riots on foreign instigators; it is likely that they have Iran in mind.  The article I’ve linked is frustrating in that it is ambiguous, seemingly hinting that we may be dealing with a powder keg, and equally likely that we are dealing with nothing.  Certainly, among all of the states in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is the most likely candidate for the United States to aggressively support the government in quelling protests that cause instability and order.

Al Jazeera is also reporting on the Chinese and Russian veto of a UN resolution that sought to condemn Syria and create minor actions against the Assad regime.

“The United States is outraged that this council has utterly failed to address an urgent moral challenge and a growing threat to regional peace and security,” Susan Rice, the US ambassador, said, condemning countries that “would rather sell arms to the Syrian regime”.

For months, Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa – the BRICS countries – have criticised the US and European council members for allegedly allowing NATO to overstep its Security Council mandate to protect civilians in Libya.

Personally, I’m inclined to agree with the position taken by China and Russia on this one.  The likelihood of this resolution peacefully resolving conflict in Syria while still allowing the Assad regime to keep power is low.  Rather, its intention is to lay groundwork for eventual regime change.  I suppose that in my own view I am hypocritical, as I would like to see regime change in Syria, but do not believe the West should be the catalyst.  Yet without the West as catalyst, Assad’s regime would have to be incredibly inept to not eliminate the present challenge to its regime.  If we intend on interfering with Syrian sovereignty to the degree of achieving regime change, there had better be an explanation of how such action is a national security imperative than what was offered regarding Libya.  Do you all agree?  Consider also Ambassador Rice’s point, that the veto prevents the international community from preventing human rights violations in Syria.  Do you believe that a UN resolution could have been the critical factor in stopping human rights violations as Syria carries out a campaign to quiet activists?

Russia weighs in on Syria

A number of states, specifically Russia and China, were weary of foreign intervention in Libya.  Russia ended up abstaining when the critical vote on Libya took place in the Security Council.  According to Al Jazeera, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has now come out saying that Russia will actively support Syria so that it can settle its own affairs.  It is safe to say that no Security Council resolution endorsing intervention of any kind in Syria can avoid being vetoed.

This announcement comes the same day as the Swiss have set new sanctions against Syria, and the day after 27 were reported dead in a Syrian border town after a military crackdown.

No Fly Zone Unlikely

A meeting of the G8 today failed to generate the imposition of a no fly zone over Libya. The foreign ministers of Germany and Russia expressed reservations over any kind of military intervention in the North African nation, effectively over-ruling their counterparts from Great Britain and France, who have both called for more aggressive action to be taken. The representatives attending the G8 meeting called for decisive action to be taken up by the UN Security Council. This latest development arrives as rebel groups in Libya seem to be withering in the face of sustained military pressure from pro-regime forces.

Russia shows off its flag in the region

The Moscow Times is covering Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Palestine, the first such visit since then-President Vladimir Putin visited six years ago.  Russia supports a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine, and a settlement freeze.  However, the Russians are not looking to take the lead on solving the conflict.

Iran loads fuel rods into its nuclear reactor

The New York Times reports that Iran is now loading its first nuclear power plant with fuel rods.  It is unclear if the International Atomic Energy Agency is in Iran observing everything or not.  The US and Israel’s concern is that the spent rods can be used to make plutonium based nuclear weapons.  Currently, Russia is supposed to be taking the spent rods from Iran.  And this is where things get tricky.  Is the Bushehr power plant a front to allow the nuclear weapons program to keep developing, or is it innocuous? 

On a side note, based on the Time’s picture, the use of hard hats at nuclear power facilities in Iran appears to be inconsistent.