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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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Turkey, like much of the Middle East, is discovering that what goes around comes around.
When Russian President Vladimir Putin lands in Riyadh this week for the second time in 12 years, his call for endorsement of his proposal to replace the US defense umbrella in the Gulf with a multilateral security architecture is likely to rank high on his agenda.
For the better part of a century, the United States could claim the moral high ground despite allegations of hypocrisy because its policies continuously contradicted its proclaimed propagation of democracy and human rights. Under President Donald J. Trump, the US has lost that moral high ground.
There’s a déjà vu feeling to this year’s wave of protests across the Arab world.It’s not that this year saw the toppling of the leaders of Algeria and Sudan as a result of popular revolts, a harking back to the 2011 protests that overthrew the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.It’s that it’s the protesters in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco rather than illiberal or autocratic regimes that have learnt the lessons of 2011.
With war and peace hanging in the balance, tensions in the Gulf are running hot and cold.Saudi and Iranian leaders are this week walking back from the brink, signalling that they want to avoid outright military confrontation and manage rather than resolve differences.In fact, there is every reason to believe that neither Riyadh nor Tehran has a vested interest in a definitive solution of the Middle East and North Africa’s multiple problems.
Fears of a potential military conflict with Iran may have opened the door to a Saudi-Iranian dialogue against the backdrop of a rethink of US military logistics, involving at least a gradual partial relocation to the United States of command and control operations based in the Gulf for almost four decades.
Nicholas Walton’s Singapore, Singapura: From Miracle to Complacency (Hurst, 2019) is far more than a portrait of the rise of a resource-poor nation that has become a model of economic development, governance and management of inter-communal relations. Part travelogue, part history, Walton charts the opportunities and pitfalls confronting small states that have become particularly acute in an era of identity politics and civilizational leadership. Potential threats include not only the Singapore’s struggle to insulate itself from global trends as well the impact of the rise of ultra-conservative attitudes in its majority Muslim neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, but also increased difficulty in balancing rival powers China and the United States. If that were not enough, Singapore is juggling multiple issues at a time that it is transiting to a new generational leadership faced with the challenge of ensuring that Singapore remains relevant to its neighbours as well as the international community at large.To do so, Singapore’s leadership will have to upgrade if not reinvent its relevance to its neighbours as well as the international community at large given tectonic geopolitical and technological shifts among which first and foremost artificial intelligence. Walton argues convincingly that complacency may be one of Singapore’s greatest challenges. Generational change involves not only a new generation of leadership but also a generation that was born into a wealthy welfare state, lacks the older generations’ sense of being pioneers and takes things for granted. It is a challenge that is likely to have consequences for a rethink of Singapore’s education system, considered one of the world’s best. In portraying the miracle of Singapore’s success and the challenges it faces, Walton brings a strong sense of history, keen observation and a journalist’s ability to paint with words an incisive picture of a country that has turned its lack of resources into an asset.________________________________________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.
By the law of unintended consequences, US President Donald J. Trump’s mix of uncritical and cynical embrace of Saudi Arabia and transactional approach towards relations with the kingdom may be producing results.
As French, Pakistani and other leaders seek to engineer a meeting between the US and Iranian presidents on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, big power rivalry could rack up tension in the waters of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
US President Donald J. Trump may not like armed conflict, but he sure loves economic warfare, whether it is to impose his political will on countries, protect sectors of the U.S. economy, secure more preferential trade terms, or stop others from gaining technological advantage.Mr. Trump’s liberal use of sanctions amounts to more than a penchant for economic warfare in an effort to create trade terms more advantageous to the United States. Economic warfare is the president’s strategy to shape a new world order that is likely to be multi-polar. Almost three years into Mr. Trump’s administration, it is proving to be a strategy with unintended consequences. Mr. Trump is not the only leader to discover that the employment of trade, commerce, and investment as not only an economic but also political tool can be a double-edged sword. So is Chinese president Xi Jinping.
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