James Dorsey

92 Articles

James M Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg.

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Latest by James Dorsey


FIFA Congress: An Israeli-Palestinian battleground

Next month’s annual congress of the world soccer body, FIFA, is likely to become the first international forum since US president Donald Trump took office to debate Israel’s controversial settlement policy in the occupied West Bank. Israeli efforts to prevent FIFA from debating and possibly censoring it for allowing soccer teams from Jewish settlements in …

James Dorsey

Defeating the Islamic State: A war mired in contradictions

US president Donald J. Trump’s vow to defeat what he terms radical Islamic terrorism forces the United States to maneuver the Middle East and North Africa’s murky world of ever shifting alliances and labyrinth of power struggles within power struggles. The pitfalls are complex and multiple. They range from differences within the 68-member anti-Islamic State …

James Dorsey

The post-2011 Arab World: change is the name of the game

Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life. Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated …

James Dorsey

Whither the Muslim World’s NATO?

Controversy and uncertainty over the possible appointment of a Pakistani general as commander of a 40-nation, Saudi-led, anti-Iranian military alliance dubbed the Muslim world’s NATO goes to the core of a struggle for Pakistan’s soul as the country reels from a week of stepped up political violence. It also constitutes a defining moment in Saudi …

James Dorsey

Asian ports: pitfalls of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative

Troubled ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, envisioned as part of China’s string of pearls linking the Eurasian heartland to the Middle Kingdom, exemplify political pitfalls that threaten Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project. Political violence over the past decade has stopped Pakistan’s Gwadar port from emerging as a major trans-shipment hub in Chinese …

James Dorsey

Women’s gyms lay bare limits of Saudi reforms

A Saudi decision to license within weeks the kingdom’s first women-only gyms constitutes progress in a country in which women’s rights are severely curtailed. It also lays bare the limitations of Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s plan for social and economic reforms that would rationalise and diversify the kingdom’s economy. Restrictions on what activities …

James Dorsey

Trump pressured to confront Pakistan on support for militants

Pressure on the Trump administration is mounting to adopt a tougher position towards Pakistani support of militants in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan itself. The pressure comes from a chorus of voices that include the US military, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and influential Washington-based think-tanks. The calls for a …

James Dorsey

Tackling Iran: Trump fuels the fire

The Trump administration risks fuelling sectarianism across the Muslim world and exacerbating multiple conflicts that are ripping the Middle East and North Africa apart by singling out Iran rather than tackling root causes. Iran moved into president Donald J. Trump’s firing line when his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, an anti-Iran hawk, put the Islamic …

James Dorsey

Think that 2016 was a tough year for Saudi Arabia? Wait until you see 2017

2016 was not a good year for Saudi Arabia. Sharply lowered oil prices sparked a domestic financial crisis that is forcing the country to restructure its economy. Saud Arabia’s bitter struggle with Iran for regional hegemony has embroiled it in wars and political conflicts which it has been unable to win, leaving Saudi Arabia no …

James Dorsey

Towards a new world order in Eurasia? The role of Russia and China

A new Russian-led, China-backed Eurasia-centred world order may be in the making against the backdrop of alleged Russian cyberwarfare against the United States and Europe. Analysts see a pattern in Russian moves that could serve China’s interests should US president-elect Donald Trump adopt a more confrontational approach towards Beijing. Suggestions that Russian president Vladimir Putin …

James Dorsey

Istanbul bombings: soccer in the bull’s eye

Twin bombs in central Istanbul may not have targeted Besiktas JK’s newly refurbished Vodafone Arena stadium, but it underscores the propaganda value of attacking a soccer match for both jihadist and non-jihadist groups. They also raise questions about counter-terrorism strategies. The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a splinter of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), claimed responsibility …

James Dorsey

Qatari soft power efforts: two steps forward, one step backwards

Efforts to leverage Qatar’s 2022 World Cup hosting rights to create the soft power the Gulf state needs to punch above its weight and ensure a sympathetic hearing in the international community in times of emergency operate on the Leninist principle of two steps forward, one step backwards. Take events this month as an example. …

James Dorsey

Under pressure, Egyptian president promises change

Faced with a drop in popularity, intermittent protests against rising prices, and calls for a mass anti-government demonstration, Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is seeking to appease the country’s youth, soccer fans, and activists with promises of change. Al-Sisi’s efforts that include a one-time lifting of a ban on spectators attending soccer matches and promises …

James Dorsey

Pushing the envelope: the World Cup and Arab revolts drive change

Pressured by human rights and trade union activists leveraging Qatar’s exposure as a World Cup host and influenced by subtle changes sparked by popular Arab revolts in recent years, young Qataris are pushing the envelope, broaching publicly hitherto taboo subjects like homosexuality, women’s dress codes, and citizenship. The pushing of the envelope may be the …

James Dorsey

Threat of widespread protests justifies continued closure of Egyptian stadia

Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s failed economic policies are prompting protests and widespread expressions of discontent. While the grumbling is unlikely to mushroom any time soon into a popular revolt similar to the one that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, it goes a long way to explain why Al-Sisi has refrained from lifting the ban …

James Dorsey

Blasphemy case highlights devastating impact of Saudi ultra-conservatism on Pakistani society

This week’s decision by Pakistan’s supreme court to delay ruling on an appeal in the country’s most notorious blasphemy case and the thousands of security personnel deployed in its capital, Islamabad, in anticipation of a verdict, lay bare the degree to which Saudi Arabia supported ultra-conservative worldviews abetted by successive Pakistani governments have changed the …

James Dorsey

A study in soft power strategy: Iceland 1, Qatar -1

The soccer soft power contrast between Qatar and Iceland speaks volumes. A comparison of the strategies of both countries demonstrates that it takes more than money to leverage soccer to create political, geopolitical, and economic opportunity. Money and world soccer body FIFA’s desire to take one of the world’s foremost sporting events beyond Europe and …

James Dorsey

Fighting for the soul of Islam: a battle of the paymasters

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, an Islamist with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, recently convened some of Islam’s most prominent leaders to determine the theologically and politically explosive question of who is a Sunni Muslim. Professing to be a Sufi, a more mystical interpretation of Islam, Kadyrov lacks the religious credentials beyond his native …

James Dorsey

Israeli-Palestinian struggle returns to the soccer pitch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused world soccer body FIFA of allowing FIFA-sanctioned matches to be played on occupied land in the West Bank in violation of FIFA rules and has demanded that the group ensure that future games be staged within the borders of Israel prior to the 1967 Middle East war. The HRW …

James Dorsey

Egypt hopes soccer will help polish its tarnished image

An Egyptian businessman with close ties to general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has submitted a bid for the broadcasting rights of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in a move that is widely seen as an effort to polish the image of Egypt, tarnished by massive abuse of human rights, failing economic policies, and a military …

James Dorsey

Turkey’s travails: purges worsen Ankara’s democracy deficit

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled conservative leader of Hizmet, one of the world’s biggest Islamic movements, responsible for the attempt to overthrow his democratically elected government. Erdogan asserts that Gulen’s followers infiltrated the military, police, judiciary, bureaucracy, and education system as well as the media. In response, he has arrested …

James Dorsey

With mosques under surveillance, IS turns to soccer for recruitment

Abu Otaiba, the nom du guerre of a self-taught imam and Islamic State (IS) recruiter in Jordan, uses soccer to attract recruits. “We take them to farms, or private homes. There we discuss and organise soccer games to bring them closer to us,” Abu Otaiba told The Wall Street Journal in a recent interview. Abu Otaiba …

James Dorsey

Erdoğan v Gulen: power struggle comes full circle in Turkish soccer

Politics’ incestuous relationship with soccer came full circle this week with the mass resignation of executives from the Turkish football federation and the firing of scores of officials, including referees, as part of the government’s witch-hunt against followers of controversial Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen and other government critics. Intended to facilitate the weeding out of …

James Dorsey

Turkey’s anti-Gulen campaign: strengthening militants and jihadists

A Turkish demand that Pakistan close 28 primary and secondary schools associated with controversial, self-exiled Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen has put the government in Islamabad in a quandary as it attempts to get a grip on an education sector in which militant Islamists and jihadists figure prominently. Turkish ambassador to Pakistan S. Babur Girgin’s demand …

James Dorsey

Port Said emerges as Egypt’s focal point of soccer-driven protest

Port Said, the Suez Canal city associated with the worst incident in Egyptian sporting history, is emerging as a prime locus of soccer-driven protest in a country that does not brook dissent. Repeated protests in the city are laden with soccer’s tangled involvement and key role in the 2011 popular revolt that toppled president Hosni …

James Dorsey