DiscoverThe Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
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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Nicholas Blincoe’s More Noble Than War: A Soccer History of Israel-Palestine (Bold Type Books, 2019) is a beautifully narrated and written history of a century of conflict between pre-state Jews and Palestinians and Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians after the establishment of the state. It is a story that goes far beyond the history of the conflict, the mirror images of developments in Jewish and Palestinian society, and the internecine ideological infighting and power struggles within the two communities. It paints in graphic detail the incestuous and inseparable relationship between sports and politics and the importance of soccer, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, in identity and nation formation as well as nation building. It also demonstrates in graphic detail how first Jews and then Palestinians exploited soccer to first achieve international recognition of their struggles and then as nations by dispatching teams to tour other countries and being granted membership in world soccer body FIFA. In doing so, Israelis and Palestinians set an example that decades later became a key pillar of the Algerian liberation struggle in the 1950s and 1960s with the National Liberation Front (FLN)’s creation of its own national soccer team that put its fight for independence on the world map. The skeletal facts of Blincoe’s tale have long been known. The significance of Blincoe’s contribution is that he puts flesh on the skeleton by weaving the facts into a meticulously researched and reported, easily accessible narrative in which he brings key players and ideological trends to life. It’s a tale that is all fact but reads like a thriller. ________________________________________ 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.
Sweeping new regulations restricting social media in Pakistan put freedom of expression and the media at the heart of the struggle to counter both civilizationalist and authoritarian aspects of an emerging new world order.
Incidents this week in Israel and Scandinavia ring alarm bells. They highlight how the rise of civilizationalist leaders in democracies empower anti-liberal and anti-democratic forces.
The optics seem evident: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is at odds with just about everybody.
Saudi Arabia may have been getting more than it bargained for when authorities in Khujand, Tajikistan’s second largest city, ordered that the city’s largest and most popular mosque be converted into a cinema.
The real issue with US President Donald J. Trump’s Deal of the Century Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is not whether it stands a chance of resolving one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. It doesn’t. More important is the fact that Israel will, in violation of international law, be empowered to unilaterally annex occupied territory and take steps towards creating an ethnically more homogenous state by transferring a significant proportion of the Jewish state’s Israeli Palestinian population to what the plan envisions as a future Palestinian entity.
A decade of anti-government protests in the Arab world have thrown popular trust in the military into the garbage bin and undermined the military’s position as one of the most trusted institutions.
A series of recent measures in Saudi Arabia and Iran that violate the rights, if not endanger religious and ethnic minorities call into question their moral claims of adhering to core faith-based values of mercy and compassion.
The Centrist Democrat International (CDI), in an attempt to counter the rise of civilizationalist states and leaders, has called for the creation of an alliance of nations, political parties and faith groups, that would seek to ensure that politics and international relations remain grounded in humanitarian values at a time of increasingly unimpeded violations of international law and human rights abuse.
At the core of US president Donald J. Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran lies the belief that Iran can be forced to negotiate terms for the lifting of harsh US economic sanctions even if it has no confidence in US intentions and adherence to agreements.
Last month’s Islamic summit in Malaysia failed to challenge with a bang Saudi influence in the Islamic world and Muslim silence about repression of adherents to the faith in countries like China and India. Yet, it has produced ripples that spotlight the risks and fragility of opportunistic acquiescence.
This week’s inauguration of a new Red Sea Egyptian military base was pregnant with the symbolism of the rivalries shaping the future of the Middle East as well as north and east Africa. The inauguration took on added significance as rebel Libyan Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, backed by United Arab Emirates crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Egyptian general-turned-president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, snubbed Russian president Vladimir Putin by refusing to agree to a ceasefire in the Libyan war.
Two sets of US government cables suggest that Iran hawks in and outside the Trump administration appear to have the upper hand as European countries give hardliners a helping hand by attempting to force Iran to seek a diplomatic solution to a crisis that threatens to engulf the Middle East in yet another military conflict.
An Iran hawk who advocated killing general Qassim Soleimani, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered his diplomats to limit contacts with militant Iranian exile and opposition groups that support either regime change or greater rights for ethnic groups like Kurds and Arabs. Coming on the back of the Soleimani killing, Mr. Pompeo’s directive appears to put an end to the Trump administration’s hinting that it covertly supports insurgent efforts to at the very least destabilize the Iranian government if not topple it.
Disclosures of taped phone calls between embattled former prime minister Najib Razak and a person believed to be United Arab Emirate crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed go a long way to explain Malaysian efforts to counter UAE and Saudi influence in the Muslim world.
Iranians play chess, Americans play backgammon when it comes to warfare, military strategy and conflict management. That is becoming increasingly obvious in the US-Iranian tit-for-tat on an Iraqi gameboard.
The US killing of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani has further opened the door to a potential restructuring of the Gulf’s security architecture.
International law may not be a major consideration in debates about the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassim Soleimani, yet the legality of the assassination could prove to have long-term consequences for whether the rule of law or the law of the jungle dominates a new world order.
The killing of Iranian military leader Qassim Soleimani proves the point: The United States has perfected the art of strengthening Iranian hardliners fuelled by an apparently ingrained misreading of Iranian politics and strategy sustained over decades.
The United States stirred a hornet’s nest that stretches far beyond Iraq when it this weekend attacked an Iranian-backed militia
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