11 January 2016
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 deflect attention from mounting criticism of the kingdom’s human rights record.
The campaign in the wake of this month’s execution of 47 people including Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, sparked an international outcry, a rupture in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and a Saudi effort to rally the Arab and Muslim world against the Islamic republic.
Iran had long warned that it would react strongly to the execution of Mr. Al-Nimr, a fierce opponent of the ruling Al Saud family whose inclusion in the execution of a large number of Al Qaeda operatives was designed to spark a crisis with Iran on the eve of the lifting of international sanctions in the wake of the international community’s nuclear agreement with Iran and in the advance of the Iranian elections.
… James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, a syndicated columnist, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a forthcoming book with the same title.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 12/01/2016