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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Desperate for cash, Tajikistan is about to sell yet another vital asset to China at a time that countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives are demanding renegotiation of debt settlements that either forced them to surrender control of critical infrastructure or left them with unsustainable repayments.
Natural gas could well emerge as the litmus test of how relations among the Gulf’s energy-rich monarchies evolve if and when a Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led alliance and Qatar bury their hatchet.
The Iranian port city of Bandar-e-Mahshahr has emerged as the scene of some of the worst violence in Iran’s brutal crackdown on recent anti-government protests.Located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, home to the country’s restive ethnic Arab minority, the protests in Bandar-e-Mahshahr strengthened Iran in its belief that the anti-government outburst was yet another effort to destabilize the Islamic republic by the United States, Saudi Arabia and/or Israel.
A Czech mayor’s refusal to endorse Beijing’s One China policy potentially sets a high bar as Western powers grapple with how to respond to allegations of excessive use of violence by police against Hong Kong protesters and the implications of leaked documents detailing a brutal crackdown in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang.
Rarely is out-of-the-box thinking needed more than in this era of geopolitical, political and economic turmoil. The stakes couldn't be higher in a world in which civilizationalist leaders risk shepherding in an era of even greater political violence, disenfranchisement and marginalisation, and mass migration.
Saudi efforts to negotiate an end to the Yemen war in a bid to open a dialogue with Iran could call into question continued Gulf support for US President Donald J. Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic republic.
Mass anti-government protests in several Arab countries are turning into competitions to determine who has the longer breath, the protesters or the government.
President Trump’s display of empathy for an illiberal leader at a White House meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was not the only tell-tale sign of the president’s instincts. So was what was not on the two men’s agenda: security in the Black Sea that lies at the crossroads of Russia, Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and NATO member Turkey.
Gulf soccer may be giving Bob Dylan’s 1964 hit, ‘The Times They Are a-Changin,’ a new lease on life.
China is manoeuvring to avoid being sucked into the Middle East’s numerous disputes amid mounting debate in Beijing on whether the People’s Republic will be able to remain aloof yet ensure the safety and security of its mushrooming interests and sizeable Diaspora community.
China is manoeuvring to avoid being sucked into the Middle East’s numerous disputes amid mounting debate in Beijing on whether the People’s Republic will be able to remain aloof yet ensure the safety and security of its mushrooming interests and sizeable Diaspora community.
These are uncertain times with trade wars, regional conflicts and increased abuse of human and minority rights pockmarking the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world. What may be potentially the most dangerous casualty of the transition is the abandonment of even a pretence to the adherence to international law.
The rise of the civilizational state and of civilizational rather than national leaders is calling into question the concept of sovereign nation states.
Widespread perceptions see Russia together with China as the rising powers in the Middle East as a result of America’s flip flops in Syria and US president Donald J. Trump’s transactional approach towards foreign policy as well as Russian and Chinese support for regimes irrespective of how non-performing and/or repressive they may be.
Protests in Lebanon have evolved into more than a fight against failed and corrupt government that has long stymied development in the Middle East and North Africa. The protests constitute a rare demand for political and social structures that emphasize national rather than ethnic or sectarian religious identities in a world in which civilizational leaders who advocate some form of racial, ethnic or religious supremacy govern the world’s major as well as key regional powers.
If there is one theme, beyond corruption and a host of economic and social grievances, that have driven protests -- large and small, local, sectoral and national – across the globe, it has been a call for dignity.
Pakistan, long viewed as an incubator of religious militancy, is gearing up for a battle over the future of the country’s notorious madrassas, religious seminaries accused of breeding radicalism.Islamist-led protests also threaten to be a fight for the future of the government of prime minister Imran Khan.
Joanna Lillis’ Dark Shadows, Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan (I. B. Tauris, 2018) takes the reader on a penetrating, colourfully written journey into the recesses of a little known Central Asian nations on the frontier of tectonic shifts across Eurasia. Kazakhstan, a sparsely populated oil-rich former Soviet republic that shares borders with Russia and China that stretch thousands of kilometres, in which demographics amount to geopolitics, walks a tight rope in a world increasingly dominated by leaders who to varying degrees define their states in civilizational rather than national terms. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and stirring of unrest in two regions of Ukraine coupled with veiled threats uttered by Russian President Vladimir Putin raise the spectre of Kazakhstan’s worst nightmares. China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs, in its troubled north-western province of Xinjiang fuels long-standing public suspicion of Chinese ambitions and put the government between a rock and a hard place. Led for almost three decades until he recently stepped down, former Communist party boss Nursultan Nazarbayev has moulded Kazakhstan in his image: an authoritarian state with some trappings of democracy that increasingly are being curtailed. Lillis paints a compelling picture of a nation that is still grappling with the consequences of Joseph Stalin’s devastating disruption of its demography and identity as it seeks forge its path in a post-Nazarbayev era against the backdrop of big power jockeying for influence in the heart of Eurasia. With the keen eye of a journalistic fly on the wall and the ability to turn words into images, Lillis portrays a strategically important country at the crossroads of geopolitics that are likely to shape an emerging new world order.
Turkey’s ambassador to China, Emin Onen, didn’t mince his words this week when he took his Chinese hosts to task for failing to support Turkey’s military campaign against a Kurdish militia in Syria.Speaking in Turkish through a translator at a news conference at his Beijing embassy, Mr. Onen implicitly put China on the spot by calling on it to stand with Turkey in its fight against political violence.In doing so, Mr. Onen was laying bare long-standing strains in Turkish-Chinese relations as well as contradictions that link Turkey’s long-standing refusal to fully recognize Kurdish rights to China’s brutal crackdown in its troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang.
Turkey, like much of the Middle East, is discovering that what goes around comes around.
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