Saudi Arabia uses soccer to isolate Iran

By James M. Dorsey   Saudi Arabia is using soccer and its influence in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to expand its campaign to isolate Iran, complicate Iran’s return to the international fold in the wake of the nuclear agreement, strengthen Iranian hardliners in advance of next month’s crucial elections in the Islamic republic, and … [Read more…]

Soccer highlights domestic drivers in Saudi-Iranian dispute

By James M. Dorsey Saudi Arabia and Iran, highlighting the domestic drivers of mounting tension that threatens to deepen and complicate sectarian and multiple other regional conflicts, have taken their fierce tit-for-tat battle from the realm of traditional diplomacy to the world of public diplomacy. Following a dizzying sequence of events, including the Saudi execution … [Read more…]

Soccer: Iranian moderates and hardliner lock horns on the pitch

By James M. Dorsey Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suffered in the run-up to crucial elections in early 2016 what amounted to at least a symbolic defeat when state-run television banned Iran’s most popular soccer program from running an interview with his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on soccer and politics. Amid confusion about the reason … [Read more…]