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Subtle policy changes could reinforce Qatari focus on sports

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By James M. Dorsey
Subtle changes in the way Qatar projects itself on the international stage symbolized by a recent government reshuffle, economic reform as a result of reduced energy income, and cutbacks at global television network Al Jazeera, could accelerate Qatari compliance with demands for migrant labour reform, and prompt an even greater emphasis on sports. That is if Qatar can shake dogged allegations of wrongdoing in its various bids to host major sporting events.
The notion of progress towards labour reform after five years of promises is fuelled by suggestions from western diplomats and some academics that the reshuffle and the streamlining of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s cabinet is a first step towards political liberalization and transition from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy.
They argue that Sheikh Tamim, who took office after his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, stepped down in 2013, has begun with the reshuffle to move the old g…

China & the Middle East: Tilting Towards Iran?

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RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical issues and contemporary developments. The views of the authors are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email: RSISPublications@ntu.edu.sgfor feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim. 
No. 020/2016 dated 28 January 2016 China & the Middle East:
Tilting Towards Iran?
By James M. Dorsey
Synopsis

President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Middle East, the first by a Chinese leader in seven years, saw the signing of billiions of dollars worth of agreements with Saudi Arabia and Egypt and a ten-fold expansion of trade with Iran over the next ten years. The significance may go far beyond commerce as Chinese interests align more with Irania…

China tilts to Iran as Xi caps visit with 17 accords (JMD on CNBC)

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Pressure builds on Sheikh Salman to respond to human rights allegations

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By James M. Dorsey
Pressure is building on Asian Football Confederation president and world soccer body FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa to respond with chapter and verse to allegations that he played a role in the detention and abuse of athletes during the 2011 popular uprising in his native Bahrain. The revolt was brutally squashed with the help of Saudi troops.
The pressure has already in recent months prompted Mr. Salman, who refused to discuss the issue for the 4.5 years since the events allegedly occurred, to deny that athletes were abused at the time and reject allegations that he was involved. His denials have left key questions unanswered and moved a prominent German politician, human rights activists, and Mark Pieth, the academic employed by FIFA at one point to oversee its reform efforts, to publicly oppose Mr. Salman’s standing for office.
Mr. Salman has put forward proposals for a reform of FIFA, the scandal-ridden world soccer body, that …

Chinese President's Middle East Tour: JMD on China Radio International

Xi eyes multiple goals on Middle East visit (JMD quoted in The Straits Times)

Xi eyes multiple goals on Middle East visit
PUBLISHED JAN 19, 2016, 5:00 AM SGT Chinese President's first official trip there will cover areas such as economic deals, regional peace, counter-terror cooperationTeo Cheng Wee China Correspondent In Beijing President Xi Jinping kicks off his first official visit to the Middle East today with a packed agenda, as China steps up its engagement with the region at a time of heightened instability. Over five days in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran, he will look to score economic deals, encourage regional peace and push counter-terrorism cooperation, analysts told The Straits Times. "These are perhaps the most important countries in the region in terms of their security, economic, demographic, religious and diplomatic influence," said political analyst Richard Weitz from the Hudson Institute. The region, which marks 60 years of diplomatic ties with China this year, is also an important part of China's "One Belt, One Road" ini…