Showing posts from May, 2013

UEFA decision on Gibraltar opens AFC prospects for Kurds

By James M. Dorsey
A decision by European soccer body UEFA to grant Gibraltar the right of membership potentially opens the door to Kurdistan to seek association with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in a move that would acknowledge demands for increased autonomy and the possible shifting of national borders in the Middle East as a result of a wave of change sweeping the region and the civil war in Syria.
The UEFA decision on Gibraltar following a ruling by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) and the possible Iraqi Kurdish application to the AFC puts pressure on world soccer body FIFA to loosen its rules on membership as the group gears up for its general assembly in Mauritius next week. CAS ruled that UEFA’s adoption in 1999 of FIFA’s rule that members need to be recognized by the United Nations was unfair. UEFA originally accepted the UN rule in 1999 to appease Spain which was opposed to the British outpost’s membership.
FIFA has used the rule to bar group…

Syrian Civil War: Russia Forges Risky Ties with Islamists

RSIS presents the following commentary Syrian Civil War: Russia Forges Risky Ties with Islamists by James M. Dorsey. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward anycomments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at
No. 100/2013 dated 27 May 2013

Syrian Civil War: Russia Forges Risky Ties with Islamists
By James M. Dorsey

In a strategy fraught with risk, Russian President Vladimir Putin is exploiting deep-
seated domestic anger at the United States and fundamentalist Russian Orthodoxy to justify his support for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and forge an alliance with Islamist forces.
Commentary RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin is countering foreign criticism of his pro-Assad policy and Russia’s declining credibility in sections of Arab public opinion by forging ties with Islamist detractors.

In a move that serves both Putin’s domestic and Russia’s foreign interests, a cross section of …

Quartz: US intelligence sees soccer as indicator of discontent

To locate the next Arab Spring revolution, look to the soccer standsBy Josh Meyer@JoshMeyerDC2 hours ago
Quartz Future revolutionaries. AP Photo It’s been said that soccer tells us all we need to know about lifeparenting, even globalization.
Now a Singapore-based blogger says soccer can tell us which Middle East or North African government will be the next to blow. At the top of the list: Algeria and Saudi Arabia.
Over at his blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, James M. Dorsey looks at soccer as a lens through which to view the fault lines carving up the Middle East and North Africa. In Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and other countries, he says, soccer played a key role in allowing pent-up anger and frustration to percolate into organized protest that forced transitions from autocratic rule to more open societies.
In these countries, those engaging in public forms of dissent are often tortured and “disappeared.” Soccer fans, in contrast, are allowed to vent as much as they want, and…

Saudi Arabia to allow women into stadiums

Protests persuade Saudi prince to leave the pitch
By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Arabia, under domestic and international pressure to grant women sporting rights, is creating separate stadium sections so that female spectators and journalists can attend soccer matches in a country that has no public physical education or sporting facilities for women.
The move announced by the recently elected head of the Saudi Football Federation, Ahmed Eid Alharbi, a storied player believed to be a reformer, also comes as soccer is emerging as a focal point of dissent in the conservative kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has been slow in granting limited enhancement of women’s rights in response to demands by activists. Women in Saudi Arabia are banned from driving, travelling without authorization from a male relative and banned from working in a host of professions. Saudi Arabia’s religious police said last month that women would be allowed to ride bikes and motorbikes in recreational areas provided that they were…

Algeria: Middle East’s next revolt if soccer is a barometer

Algerian soccer fans protest in 2011
By James M. Dorsey
Algeria is competing to be the next Arab nation to witness a popular revolt. That is assuming soccer is a barometer of rising discontent in a region experiencing a wave of mass protests that have already toppled the leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and sparked civil war in Syria.
In fact, there is increasingly  little doubt that soccer, a historic nucleus of protest in Algeria, is signaling that popular discontent could again spill into the streets of Algiers and other major cities. Two years ago, protesters inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia, ultimately pulled back from the brink despite the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Now, in circumstances similar to Saudi Arabia, protests are mounting amid uncertainty about the future as Algeria’s aging leadership struggles with a series of natural deaths and the effects of health problems among its remaining key members.

Reform of Middle Eastern Militaries: Lessons from Indonesia

No. 092/2013 dated 14 May 2013

Reform of Middle Eastern Militaries:
Lessons from Indonesia
By James M. Dorsey

The recent commando raid on a prison by Indonesian special forces provoked renewed debate about the need to further reform the military and subject it to civilian justice - 15 years after the end of autocratic rule in Jakarta. This illustrates the difficult road post-revolt nations in the Middle East and North Africa have to travel.

THE RECENT RAID of an Indonesian prison and summary execution of four inmates by heavily armed Special Forces commandos has cast the spotlight on the risk involved in  failing to fully reform the country’s military - 15 years after the end of autocratic rule.
The raid and subsequent charging of 11 officers as well as other recent incidents involving security forces has sparked debate about the nature and terms of the reform including the fact that its members are accountable to military rather than civilian courts. Those courts  have pro…

Soccer emerges as focal point of dissent in Saudi Arabia

Prince Faisal rushes off the pitch
By James M. Dorsey
Soccer, alongside minority Shiite Muslims and relatives of imprisoned government critics, is emerging as a focal point of dissent in Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich kingdom that despite banning demonstrations by law is struggling to fend off the waves of change sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
Fan pressure is evolving as a potent tool in the absence of the right to protest. It follows intermittent demonstrations and at times deadly clashes with security forces in the kingdom’s predominantly Shiite Eastern Province that hosts its major oil fields as well protests by family members of activists imprisoned for lengthy periods of time without being charged.
In the latest assertion of fan power, a Facebook page entitled Nasrawi Revolution demands the resignation of Prince Faisal bin Turki, the owner of storied Riyadh club Al Nasser FC and a burly nephew of King Abdullah who sports a mustache and chin hair. A You Tube video captured…