Showing posts from February, 2016

Bahraini’s soccer defeat: A cautionary tale for autocrats

By James M. Dorsey
A failed election campaign for the presidency of world soccer body FIFA by Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa that has further tarnished the image of his native Bahrain as well as his own reputation holds out a cautionary tale for Middle Eastern, North African and other autocrats who see sports as a way to project themselves more positively on the international stage.
Mr. Salman, who was defeated in Friday’s election by Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) secretary general Gianni Infantino despite being the frontrunner, was dogged during his campaign by allegations of having been involved in the detention in 2011 of a large number of national soccer team players, athletes and sports executives who were abused and tortured during their arrest. The athletes and officials were being targeted for participating in a peaceful popular revolt that was brutally squashed by Saudi-backed security forces.
The silver lining in Mr. Salman’s defeat is that it has lik…

Saudi Arabia’s Future: Will Al Saud’s Partnership with Wahhabism Hold?

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: feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentary, Yang Razali Kassim. 
No. 046/2016 dated 26 February 2016 Saudi Arabia’s Future:
Will Al Saud’s Partnership with Wahhabism Hold?
By James M. Dorsey

Saudi Arabia is confronting a perfect storm of challenges: economic, political, social, ideological, and geopolitical. How it weathers the storm will likely depend on how it handles the inevitable restructuring of the problematic partnership between the Al Saud ruling family and the Wahhabi ulama or religious scholar…

Scheich Salman Al-Khalifa und der Folter-Verdacht (JMD quoted in Berliner Zeitung)

MÖGLICHER NEUER FIFA-PRÄSIDENTScheich Salman Al-Khalifa und der Folter-Verdacht Von 
Scheich ist ihm nicht genug: Salman Al-Khalifa will an die Spitze der Fifa.  Foto: AFP Am Freitag will Scheich Salman Al-Khalifa in Zürich Präsident der Fifa werden. Er gilt als Favorit. Warum das Mitglied des sunnitischen Herrscherhauses für das marode Wertesystem der Fifa steht. Drucken per Mail Die Londoner Kanzlei Schillings hat derzeit eine Menge zu tun. Ihre Anwälte, die unter dem Motto „Den Ruf verteidigen. Privates schützen“ arbeiten, verschicken Schreiben an Medien weltweit, im Auftrag eines Klienten, der an diesem Freitag in Zürich Präsident des Fußball-Weltverbandes (Fifa) werden will: Scheich Salman Al-Khalifa aus Bahrain, Mitglied des sunnitischen Herrscherhauses, das eine schiitische Bevölkerungsmehrheit mit eiserner Faust regiert.
Al-Khalifa lässt schon Fragen juristisch abwehren, vor allem solche nach seiner Rolle bei der blutigen Niederschlagung des Arabischen Frühlings 20…

Salman’s moral rectitude or everything you wanted to know about FIFA but never dared to ask

By James M.  Dorsey
Lecture at the 8th Interdisciplinary Colloquium of the Institute of Sports Science, Wuerzburg, 19 February 2016 
Let me start off on a positive note given that I have been one of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa’s staunchest and most persistent critics. Salman has put forward proposals for reform of FIFA that have merit. He has taken personal gain out of the game by insisting that he won’t draw a salary and more importantly he has proposed to separate FIFA’s governance duties from its business activities – a change that goes to the core of the world soccer body’s patronage politics and financial corruption. It’s a separation of powers that I and others have long argued for.
Having said this, let me quickly disabuse you of any illusions that my comments on Salman’s reform proposals imply a change in my position with regard to the requirement that he preferably before but if not than after the up…

Conviction of Egyptian soccer fans slams door on potential political dialogue

By James M. Dorsey
Fleeting hopes that Egypt’s militant, street battled-hardened soccer fans may have breached general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s repressive armour were dashed with this week’s sentencing of 15 supporters on charges of attempting to assassinate the controversial head of storied Cairo club Al Zamalek SC.
Although the sentences of one year in prison handed down by a Cairo court were relatively light by the standards of a judiciary that has sent hundreds of regime critics to the gallows and condemned hundreds more to lengthy periods in jail, it threatens to close the door to a dialogue that had seemingly been opened, if only barely, by Mr. Al Sisi.
Mr. Al Sisi’s rare gesture came in a month that witnessed three mass protests, two by soccer fans in commemoration of scores of supporters killed in two separate, politically loaded incidents, and one by medical doctors – an exceptional occurrence since Mr. Al Sisi’s rise to power in a military coup in 2013 follow…

Is Saudi Arabia wavering on sending troops to Syria? (JMD quoted in Christian Science Monitor)

Is Saudi Arabia wavering on sending troops to Syria? The Kingdom pledged to send troops last week, amid an international campaign to fight the Islamic State.ByBamzi Banchiri, StaffFEBRUARY 15, 2016Save for later Virginia Mayo/AP/File View Caption About video ads View Caption After announcing its willingness to deploy ground forces in Syria last week, Saudi Arabia’s officials now appear to be more hesitant about their initial plans. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said on Sunday that the decision whether to have a ground component on the ground is up to the US-led coalition. “We said that if the US-led coalition is going to send ground troops into Syria, we are prepared to send special forces, so now we are waiting to see what the plan looks like,” Jubeir said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. “But we have said yes, we’re prepared to provide special forces as part of the ground operations in Syria.” Recommended: How well do you understand the conflict in S…

Saudi Arabia’s Syria strategy: Rewriting the Middle East’s Political Map

By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Arabia has raised the ante in its battle with Iran by publicly committing to send ground troops to Syria. This latest move by the Saudis is aimed at drawing the US into a more direct involvement to confront Islamic State as well as the de facto alliance of Russia and Iran to keep Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in power. An agreement by major world powers to negotiate a cessation of hostilities in the next week does little to thwart Saudi Arabia’s strategy.
In a recent, wide-ranging interview in The Economist, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was unequivocal in a recent about the goals of Saudi Arabia’s more assertive, interventionist foreign and defence policy. To achieve the kingdom’s goal of rolling back the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa and contain Iranian influence in the region, Saudi Arabia needs to leave the US no option but to re-engage rather than simply focus on the fight against jihadism.
“The United States must …