Showing posts from August, 2020

Pakistan-Saudi Spat: Hitting the Kingdom Where It Hurts

by James M. Dorsey A rift between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia throws into sharp relief deepening fissures in the Muslim world. Coupled with the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and a myriad of other conflicts in the Middle East, the dispute poses serious challenges to Saudi Arabia’s quest for geopolitical and religious leadership of the Muslim world.Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi has stirred a regional hornet’s nest by challenging Saudi leadership of the Muslim world.Complaining about lack of support of the Saudi-dominated Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that groups 57 Muslim-majority nations for Pakistan in its conflict with India over Kashmir, Mr. Qureishi suggested that his country would seek to rally support beyond the realm of the kingdom.In doing so, Mr. Qureishi was hitting Saudi Arabia where it hurts most and at a particularly sensitive moment in the kingdom’s quest for religious and regional hegemony.…

Ignore at your peril: Palestine ranks high in Arab public opinion

By James M. DorseyRare polling of public opinion in Saudi Arabia suggests that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be more sensitive to domestic public opinion on foreign policy issues such as Palestine than he lets on. The polling also indicates that a substantial number of Saudis is empathetic to protest as a vehicle for political change.The poll conducted on behalf of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy is likely to reinforce Prince Mohmmed’s resolve to crackdown on any form of criticism or dissent at a time that the kingdom is struggling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and a steep fall in oil prices and demand.The Washington Institute survey strokes with polling by others, including James Zogby, an Arab-American researcher and activist and author of The Tumultuous Decade: Arab Public Opinion and the Upheavals of 2010–2019.Saudi reluctance to follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates in recognizing the State of Israel suggests that autocra…

Playing With Fire: China Fuels Middle East Arms Race

By James M. DorseyUnfettered Chinese support for Saudi Arabia’s so far peaceful nuclear energy program risks fueling a burgeoning Middle East arms race amid concerns that the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement is all but dead, Turkey suggesting it has the right to develop nuclear weapons, and Israel certain to not remain idle if nuclear proliferation becomes the name of the game.Aided and abetted by China, the Middle East risks barreling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race.A disclosure in the last week that Saudi Arabia has constructed, with the help of China, a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium is the latest in a series of Chinese moves that advance the kingdom’s drive to acquire nuclear technology.Saudi Arabia has denied building a yellowcake facility but insisted that mining its uranium reserves was part of its economic diversification strategy. The Saudi energy ministry said it was cooperating with China in unspecified aspects of uranium exploratio…

Whither the Arab and the Muslim world?

By James M. DorseyA podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.An agreement to establish diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel and a Saudi-Pakistani spat over Kashmir coupled with feuds among Gulf states and between Turkey, the kingdom, and the Emirates drive nails into the notion that the Arab and Islamic world by definition share common geopolitical interests on the basis of ethnicity or religion and embrace kinship solidarity.The UAE-Israel agreement weakens the Palestinians’ efforts to create a state of their own but their criticism of the UAE’s move to become the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to officially recognize the Jewish state is based on a moral rather than a legal claim.The UAE and Israel see their relations with the United States and the perceived threat from Iran as bigger fish to fry.Both countries hope that an u…

Rejiggering Gulf Security: China’s Game of Shadow Boxing

by James M. Dorsey | Aug 10, 2020 This story was first published in Inside ArabiaA podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.China and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a complex game of shadow boxing to shape a future security framework for the Gulf designed to contain regional conflicts. In a bid to ensure plausible deniability, the boxers are for now intellectuals and journalists rather than officials.China and its Gulf partners appear to be engaged in a game of shadow boxing.At stake is the future of Gulf security and the management of differences between the region’s conservative monarchies and revolutionary Iran.With governments passing to one another unofficial subtle messages, intellectuals and journalists are the ones out front in the ring.In the latest round, Baria Alamuddin, a Lebanese journalist who regularly writes columns for Saudi media, has cast subtlety a…

Saudi sports diplomacy: A train barrelling towards an abyss

By James M. Dorsey
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.
Saudi efforts to position the kingdom as a key player in global soccer resembles a train crashing multiple times with the locomotive continuing to barrel ever closer to an abyss.
The train’s last crash, Saudi Arabia’s decision to drop its US$392 million bid to acquire English Premier League club Newcastle United, has not brought the train to a standstill.
Almost simultaneously, Saudi Arabia, a potential Middle Eastern powerhouse on the pitch, formally appealed against a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that it facilitated the piracy of Premier League matches. Saudi Arabia initially welcomed the ruling, claiming it was in its favour.
A WTO inquiry concluded that Saudi courts had stopped the Premier League from acting against BeoutQ, a pirate broadcaster widely believed to have had at least tacit Saudi go…

Sport, Politics, and Society in the Middle East

DANYEL REICHE AND TAMIR SOREK Sport, Politics, and Society in the Middle East OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 2019 July 29, 2020 James M. Dorsey
Sports scholars Danyel Reiche and Tamir Sorek’s edited volume, Sport, Politics, and Society in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2019), makes a significant contribution to what remains a largely understudied, yet critically important segment of Middle Eastern political and social life. It does so by discussing in eleven chapters multiple aspects and consequences of the region’s incestuous relationship between sports and politics. These range from corruption, the role of the private sector, an emphasis on elite sports and projection of the state at the expense of grassroots sports to battles for identity expressed among others in memories to how sports chants in Israel reflect society’s political and social moods as well as it fault lines, the struggle of women to overcome deeply entrenched social modes and how social media helps them with brandin…