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Geopolitics is written all over Saudi religious soft power efforts. Nowhere more so than when it comes to Israel and Jews because of the growing importance of security cooperation with the Jewish state and the influence of the Israeli lobby in the United States, the kingdom's most important yet problematic security partner. Launched 12 years ago, my column, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, offers, to borrow a phrase from an early proprietor of The Observer, ‘the scoop of interpretation.’ The column continues to have significant impact. It is republished by news websites, blogs, and newsletters across the globe. Maintaining free distribution is key to maintaining the column’s impact. However, to do so, I rely on those readers who value the column and its impact by voluntarily becoming paid subscribers. If you are able and willing to support the column, please become a paid subscriber by clicking on Substack on the subscription button and choosing one of the subscription options. If you prefer, you can also make a donation. Thank you for your continued interest, readership, and support.
When Egyptian football legend Mohammed Aboutreika came out swinging against homosexuality in late 2021, he touched a raw nerve across the Muslim world. The tit-for-tat between Mr. Aboutreika and supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights laid bare a yawning gap.
China could be entering choppy Middle Eastern waters. Multiple crises and conflicts will likely shape its relations with the region’s major powers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey.
The question for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is not whether either country will recognise Israel but when and who will go first. Welcome to The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer or Mideastsoccer newsletter. I’m James Dorsey, an award-winning scholar, journalist, and columnist. In this newsletter, I talk about everything from geopolitics, relations between the Middle East or West Asia and the rest of Asia, big power rivalry and its impact on the Middle East and Eurasia, religious soft power rivalry, and the politics of sport. At times, I host authors of interesting and relevant books. I launched The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer 12 years ago. It offers, to borrow a phrase from an early proprietor of The Observer, ‘the scoop of interpretation.’ It continues to have significant impact and are republished by news websites, blogs, and newsletters across the globe. It’s used in class rooms and serves many as a tool for understanding the complex world we live in. Maintaining free distribution is key to maintaining the column’s impact. However, to do so, I rely on those readers who value the column and its impact by voluntarily taking out a paid subscription. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber by going to https://www.jamesmdorsey.substack.com or making a donation at http://www.jamesmdorsey.net so I can keep distributing the column for free to achieve the widest distribution possible. Paid subscribers additionally get on request individual and/or group briefings and Q&A sessions at their convenience. I’m always happy to answer questions, respond to comments, and provide insights based on my knowledge, understanding and extensive network that will further help readers make sense of the world around them. Thank you for your continued interest, readership, and support.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baqr, a man known for his pithy retorts, pretended to quiver in his pants. Hindu nationalists had called for a boycott of the Gulf airline after Qatar took India to task for derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed and Muslim worship by two spokespeople of the country’s ruling party.
US and European acquiescence in Turkey's long-standing refusal to honour Kurdish ethnic, cultural, and political rights has come home to roost with Turkish opposition to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership.
Wahhabism and the World constitutes one of the few, if not the first comprehensive, impassionate interrogations of the impact on Islam of Saudi financial and other support for the global spread of what Peter Mandaville calls Saudi religious transnationalism and is more colloquially referred to with catchall phrases such as Saudi funding or support for ultra-conservatism. Mr. Mandaville’s volume with chapters that provide fresh insights into the Saudi export drive and a set of case studies illustrates that the reality of the campaign is far more complex and layered.
For now, Ukraine is the far from my bed show for most Middle Eastern nations. The question is not if but when Ukraine will arrive on their doorstep.
NATO’s spat over Turkish opposition to Swedish and Finnish membership is about more than expanding the North Atlantic military alliance. It's as much about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's immediate political goals as Turkey's positioning itself in a new 21st-century world order. Launched 12 years ago, my column, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, offers, to borrow a phrase from an early proprietor of The Observer, ‘the scoop of interpretation.’ The column continues to have significant impact. It is republished by news websites, blogs, and newsletters across the globe. Maintaining free distribution is key to maintaining the column’s impact. However, to do so, I rely on those readers who value the column and its impact by voluntarily becoming paid subscribers. If you are able and willing to support the column, please become a paid subscriber by clicking on Substack on the subscription button and choosing one of the subscription options. (https://jamesmdorsey.substack.com/subscribe?utm_source=menu&simple=true&next=https%3A%2F%2Fjamesmdorsey.substack.com%2F).Thank you for your interest, readership, and support.
These are heady days for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The continued production and distribution of Qur'ans that included unaltered ultra-conservative interpretations sits uneasily with Mr. Bin Salman's effort to emphasize nationalism rather than religion as the core of Saudi identity and project a more moderate and tolerant image of the kingdom's Islam.
Amid speculation about a reduced US military commitment to security in the Middle East, Turkey has spotlighted the region's ability to act as a disruptive force if its interests are neglected.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he laid down a marker for a critical mass of world leaders who, like him, think in civilizational rather than national terms.
There's a potential silver lining in Hindu nationalism's endorsement of Indonesia's Humanitarian Islam. That is if the approval produces a Hindu equivalent.
Malaysia has emerged as a potential external operations base for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip if Turkey expels or restricts the group’s movements as a part of its rapprochement with Israel.
Israel’s rapidly deteriorating relations with Russia contain a message for other Middle Eastern powers: attempting to remain on the sidelines of the conflict in Ukraine risks falling in between the cracks.
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan was a geopolitical watershed. Its shockwaves continue to reverberate and are magnified by the wars in Ukraine and Yemen.
When US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III declared that Washington wanted to see Russia so “weakened" that it would no longer be able to invade a neighbouring state, he lifted the veil on US goals in Ukraine. He also held out the prospect of a long-term US-Russian contest for power and influence.
Russia and the Nordic countries’ pavilions at this year’s Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious art exhibition, project two different concepts of civilisation, nationalism, and sovereignty that have come to blows in Ukraine.
Rather than push for an immediate improvement of strained relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia appears to be looking forward to a time when US President Joe Biden's wings may be clipped.
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