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The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer

Author: James M. Dorsey

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Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.
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By and large, Gulf states garnered public trust with degrees of transparency in their handling of the pandemic and its associated economic crisis. Retaining that trust going forward will depend on Gulf rulers’ willingness to embrace transparency when it comes to policies designed to spark economic recovery and govern structural reform.
US President Donald J. Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani religious scholars may have more in common than either would want to admit: a belief that congregation is an essential pillar of prayer irrespective of public health concerns.
The United Arab Emirates and Turkey are locked into a regional power struggle that has fuelled conflict in Libya and could spark renewed fighting in Syria. It is a struggle, like that between Saudi Arabia and Iran, that threatens to keep the Middle East and North Africa on edge.
Israel is proving to Gulf states that it is a more reliable partner in some respects than big powers like the United States, China, or Russia. But the limits of cooperation with Israel could come to the forefront at a time of economic crisis in which Gulf states are likely to have to renegotiate long-standing social contracts.
The coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout calls into question Gulf states’ ability to fund a brewing, costly regional arms race. That in turn could not only reshape their geopolitical posture but also efforts to make the military a pillar of a new national identity at a time that they are forced to renegotiate outdated social contracts.
One thing is certain: the recent US military pullback from Saudi Arabia will fuel a brewing arms race in the Middle East at a time that the region, struggling with the public health and devastating economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, can least afford it.
If New York governor Andrew. Cuomo learnt anything from his delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic, it was that “an outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.”
IBRAHIM FRAIHAT Iran and Saudi Arabia Taming a Chaotic Conflict EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY PRESS 2020 May 5, 2020 James M. Dorsey Ibrahim Fraihat’s latest book, Iran and Saudi Arabia: Taming a Chaotic Conflict (Edinburgh University Press, 2020) is much more than an exploration of the history of animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran and its debilitating impact on an already volatile Middle East. It is a detailed roadmap for management and resolution of what increasingly looks like an intractable conflict. Based on years of field research, Fraihat builds a framework that initially could help Saudi Arabia and Iran prevent their conflict from spinning out of control, create mechanisms for communication and travel down a road of confidence building that could create building blocks for a resolution. Fraihat’s book could not have been published at a more critical moment. A devastating coronavirus pandemic has hit both Saudi Arabia and Iran hard. So has the associated global economic breakdown and the collapse of oil markets. The double whammies constitute the most existential crisis the kingdom has faced in at least half a century. They hit Iran particularly hard as it labours under harsh US sanctions. Fraihat offers a roadmap that would allow Saudi Arabia and Iran to ultimately extricate themselves from costly proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya. By providing a detailed roadmap, Fraihat’s book makes a major contribution not only to a vast literature of conflict in the Middle East but also to policymakers in Saudi Arabia and as well as would-be mediators. ________________________________________ James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout may rewrite the security as well as the political and economic map of the Middle East. The crisis will probably color Gulf attitudes towards the region’s major external players: the United States, China, and Russia. Yet, Gulf states are likely to discover that their ability to shape the region’s map has significantly diminished.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may feel that the global pandemic and its economic fallout are the more immediate of his problems as the kingdom gradually lifts restrictions put in place to stymie the spread of the coronavirus. However, looming large on the horizon is a potential rift with the United States as a result of the kingdom’s price war with Russia that contributed to the collapse of oil markets and an existential crisis for America’s shale industry.
It is early days, but first indications are that the global pandemic is entrenching long-drawn Middle Eastern geopolitical, political, ethnic, and sectarian battle lines rather than serving as a vehicle to build bridges and build confidence.
Populated by fluent Hebrew speakers, the Israel desk of Armenia’s foreign ministry waited back in 1991 in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union for a phone call that never came. The ministry was convinced that Israel, with whom Armenia shared an experience of genocide, were natural allies. The ministry waited in vain. Israel never made the call.
The United States and Iran, acting on perceptions of one another that seem to be engraved in stone, are on a collision course that could have devastating consequences for Arab Gulf states and Iraq. The risk is magnified by each one’s adoption of policies and strategies that are based on faulty assessments of the other.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has rolled the dice with a US$ 374 million bid to acquire storied British soccer club Newcastle United.
The coronavirus pandemic and the global economic meltdown forced Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Russia to call time out in a war that was less about prices and more about market share and survival of the fittest. The agreement among producers to cut production by 10 million barrels a day amounts to a ceasefire that will likely end once economies recover and can again sustain the cost of war.
A decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers like Russia to temporarily end a price war and cut production amounts to a time-out rather than an end to what is likely to erupt at some point in the future as a tripartite war.
Science has knocked religion and traditional healing methods out of the ring in the battle between rival approaches towards getting the coronavirus pandemic under control.
The Coronavirus pandemic points a finger not only at the colossal global collapse of responsible public health policy but also the importance of balancing exclusionary religious practices and social cohesion
There’s a message in Pakistani and Egyptian responses to the Coronavirus: neither ultra-conservative science-rejecting worldviews nor self-serving autocratic policies aimed at regime enhancement produced initial prevention and mitigation strategies that could have blunted the impact of the disease.
AHMET T. KURU Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment A Global and Historical Comparison CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS 2019 March 25, 2020 James M. Dorsey Ahmet T. Kuru’s new book Islam, Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment, A Global and Historical Comparison (Cambridge University Press, 2019) is a ground-breaking history and analysis of the evolution of the state in Muslim countries. Thoroughly researched and accessibly written, Kuru’s work traces the template of the modern-day state in many Muslim-majority countries to fundamental political, social and economic changes in the 11th century. That was when Islamic scholars who until then had by and large refused to surrender their independence to the state were co-opted by Muslim rulers. It was a time when the merchant class lost its economic clout as the Muslim world moved from a mercantile to a feudal economy. Religious and other scholars were often themselves merchants or funded by merchants. The transition coincided with the rise of the military state legitimized by religious scholars who had little choice but to go into its employ. They helped the state develop a forced Sunni Muslim orthodoxy based on text rather than reason- or tradition based interpretation of Islam with the founding of madrassahs or religious seminaries that were designed to counter the rise of Shiite states in North Africa and counter less or unorthodox strands of the faith. Kuru’s history could hardly be more relevant. It lays bare the roots of modern-day, illiberal, authoritarian or autocratic states in the Muslim world that are characterized by some form of often rent-driven state capitalism and frequently expansionary in their effort to ensure regime survival and increase rents. These states feature education systems that fail to develop critical thinking and religious establishments that are subservient to their rulers. Kuru’s book also in effect describes one of the original sources of the civilizational state that has become a fixture in the struggle to shape a new world order. With his book, Kuru has made an invaluable contribution to the understanding of the stagnation as well as the turmoil that has swept the Middle East and North Africa as well as the wider Islamic world. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
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