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James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg, and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer. Email:

Commentary 622: Syria lures but will China bite?

18 June 2020

China looms large as a potentially key player alongside Russia and Iran in President Bashas al-Assad’s post-war Syria. With Russia and Iran lack

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Commentary 624: UAE Targets Turkey and Qatar in the Mediterranean

23 June 2020

Europe is progressively being sucked into the Middle East and North Africa’s myriad conflicts. As if wars on its doorstep in Libya and Syria wer

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Commentary 633: Breaking with the past: China hints at greater political engagement in the Middle East

10 August 2020

China is contemplating greater political engagement in the Middle East in what would constitute a break with its longstanding effort to avoid being su

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Commentary 637: Ignore at your peril: Palestine ranks high in Arab public opinion

10 September 2020

Rare polling of public opinion in Saudi Arabia suggests that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be more sensitive to domestic public opinion on fore

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Commentary 640: Pakistan-Saudi Spat: Hitting the Kingdom Where It Hurts

21 September 2020

A rift between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia throws into sharp relief deepening fissures in the Muslim world. Coupled with the establishment of diplomatic

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Commentary 643: The UAE-Israel deal’s historicity is in the fine print

08 October 2020

A close read of the agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel suggests that the Jewish state has won far more than diplomatic recognition.

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Commentary 647: Controversial Israeli soccer club may be litmus test for UAE soft power ploy

22 October 2020

An Emirati offer to invest in Israel’s most controversial soccer club could serve as a figurative litmus test of hopes that Arab recognition of

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Commentary 654: Saudi rushes to improve its image in advance of G20 and Biden

03 December 2020

Saudi Arabia has taken multiple steps to polish its tarnished image in advance of this weekend’s hosting of the virtual summit of the G20 that g

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Commentary 656: Subtly, China pressures Gulf States to reduce regional tensions

17 December 2020

Public debates about China’s Middle East policy are as much internal Chinese discussions as they are indications of where Beijing’s thinki

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Commentary 658: Turkey gambles in bid to rival China as a key supply chain node

07 January 2021

A projected sharp reduction in trade between the United States and China in the next two years coupled with moves to diversify supply chains potential

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Commentary 665: Concentration Camp Guides, the Far Right, and Islam: Europe Frays at the Edges

15 February 2021

Religion scholar Esra Ozyurek has a knack for identifying trends that ring warning bells about where Europe is heading. She points to German Muslims,

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Commentary 668: A little acknowledged clause may be main obstacle to revival of Iran nuclear accord

08 March 2021

A little acknowledged provision of the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program explains jockeying by the United States a

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Commentary 572: Hints of Gulf rapprochement: Iranian tactics may be paying off

15 October 2019

Fears of a potential military conflict with Iran may have opened the door to a Saudi-Iranian dialogue against the backdrop of a rethink of US military

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Commentary 575: It’s when, not if, China’s Middle Eastern tightrope snaps

21 November 2019

China is manoeuvring to avoid being sucked into the Middle East’s numerous disputes amid mounting debate in Beijing on whether the People’

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Commentary 578: Mending Gulf fences could weaken support for US sanctions against Iran

13 December 2019

Saudi efforts to negotiate an end to the Yemen war in a bid to open a dialogue with Iran could call into question continued Gulf support for US Presid

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Commentary 580: A microcosm of Iran’s domestic problems, port city bears brunt of crackdown

18 December 2019

The Iranian port city of Bandar-e-Mahshahr has emerged as the scene of some of the worst violence in Iran’s brutal crackdown on recent anti-gove

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Commentary 586: Iran crisis test drives fundaments of Trump’s foreign policy

31 January 2020

At the core of US president Donald J. Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran lies the belief that Iran can be forced to negotiate terms

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Commentary 588: Iran looms large in Central Asia despite sanctions and Saudi financial muscle

14 February 2020

Saudi Arabia may have been getting more than it bargained for when authorities in Khujand, Tajikistan’s second largest city, ordered that the ci

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Commentary 590: What the Deal of the Century Tells Us About the World We Live In

19 February 2020

A podcast version of this story is available on Sound cloud, ITunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Tune In, Speaker, Pocket Casts, Tumbler, Pod bean, Au decibel,

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Commentary 595: Biden, Sanders, or Trump: US Policy towards the Gulf will Change Regardless

19 March 2020

The fight in this week’s Democratic primaries may have been about who confronts Donald J. Trump in November’s US presidential election, Be

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Commentary 598: Refugees and Shantytowns in MENA and Beyond Imperil Global Public Health

02 April 2020

Syria’s announcement of its first COVID-19 case highlights the public health threat posed by war zones that produce millions of refugees and dis

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Commentary 599: Resisting Lockdowns: Bringing Ultra-conservatives into the fold

08 April 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic points a finger not only at the colossal global collapse of responsible public health policy but also the importance of balan

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Commentary 603:OPEC production cut papers over cracks in US-Gulf relation but for how long?

17 April 2020

A decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers like Russia to temporarily end a price war and cut produ

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Commentary 604:Stopping COVID-19 in its tracks: Science gets the upper hand

20 April 2020

Civilizationalist leaders, who seek religious legitimacy, cater to a religious support base or initially discarded scientific advice for expedient pol

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Commentary 569: Saudi policy shift: A rare Trump foreign policy success

08 October 2019

By the law of unintended consequences, US President Donald J. Trump’s mix of uncritical and cynical embrace of Saudi Arabia and transactional ap

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Commentary 566: Gulf wealth: All that glitters is not gold

19 September 2019

Little suggests that fabulously wealthy Gulf States and their Middle Eastern and North African beneficiaries have recognized what is perhaps the most

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Commentary 564: Playing Palestinian politics: UAE-backed ex-security chief weighs his options

16 September 2019

A controversial former security official and Abu Dhabi-based political operator, Mohammed Dahlan, has lurked for several years in the shadows of Pales

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Commentary 548: Saudis’ Yemeni headache won’t go away if and when the guns fall silent

29 March 2019

These are tough times for Saudi Arabia. The drama enveloping the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the brutal way in which it was carried o

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Commentary 560: Security architecture in the Gulf:Troubled prospects

13 August 2019

Russia, backed by China, hoping to exploit mounting doubts in the Gulf about the reliability of the United States as the region’s sole security

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Commentary 547: Saudi gas export plans shine new light on efforts to isolate Iran

27 March 2019

Saudi plans to become a major gas exporter within a decade raise questions about what the real goal of the kingdom’s policy, and by ex

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Commentary 559: Shifting sands: Chinese encroachment in Central Asia and Challenges to US supremacy in the Gulf

09 August 2019

China and Russia are as much allies as they are rivals. A joint Tajik-Chinese military exercise in a Tajik region bordering on China’s troubled

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Commentary 546:Turkish-Chinese spat puts Central Asian leaders on the spot

25 March 2019

A Turkish-Chinese spat as a result of Turkish criticism of China’s crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its strategic but troubled north-wes

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Commentary 558: Kashmir: A battleground for Middle Eastern Rivals

07 August 2019

Thought that sectarianism was a pillar of the Saud Iranian rivalry? Think again, think Kashmir where the two countries’ geopolitical rivalry and

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Commentary 544: Suicide attack in Iran frames visit to Pakistan by Saudi Crown Prince

21 March 2019

This week’s suicide attack on Revolutionary Guards in Iran’s south-eastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, the second in two months, c

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Commentary 543:Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman must walk geopolitical tightrope during Asian tour

20 March 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s three-nation tour of Asia is as much about demonstrating he stands tall – despite Western critici

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Commentary 542: South Asian Geopolitics: Saudi Arabia: 1 Iran: 0?

12 March 2019

It may be reading tea leaves but analysis of the walk-up to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit and his sojourn in Islamabad suggests

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Commentary 539: Inside the bellway: Iran hardliners vs Iran hardliners

27 February 2019

Alarm bells went off last September in Washington's corridors of power when John Bolton’s national security council asked the Pentagon

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Commentary 535: Syria’s Kurds: The new frontline in confronting Iran and Turkey

18 February 2019

US President Donald J. Trump’s threat to devastate Turkey’s economy if Turkish troops attack Syrian Kurds allied with the United Stat

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Commentary 533: Managing minefield: Saudi/UAE aid puts Pakistan-Iran relations on the spot

13 February 2019

Pakistan is traversing minefields as it concludes agreements on investment, balance of payments support and delayed payment oil deliveries with Saudi

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Commentary 532: Turkic Chinese soup: A barometer of anti-Chinese sentiment

07 February 2019

A heavy soup made of pulled noodles, meat, and vegetables symbolizes Central Asia’s close cultural and/or ethnic ties with China’s repress

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Commentary 526: US troop withdrawals threaten to fuel greater, potentially problematic Gulf assertiveness

18 January 2019

As far as Gulf leaders are concerned, President Donald J. Trump demonstrated with his announced US troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan&n

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Commentary 525: Indian Muslims; a rich hunting ground for Middle Eastern rivals

16 January 2019

When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently declared that Turkey was “the only country that can lead the Muslim world,” he probably wasn&

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Commentary 524: US Senate resolution potentially changes Middle East dynamics

10 January 2019

A draft US Senate resolution describing Saudi policy in the Middle East as a "wrecking ball" and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as “

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Commentary 523: Saudi diplomatic offensive seeks to put Khashoggi behind it and thwart Qatar

08 January 2019

As Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman tours friendly Arab nations in advance of the Group of 20 (G-20) industrialized nation’s summit in Arg

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Commentary 522: Nuclear Energy: Saudi Arabia's coming Washington battle

07 January 2019

When Saudi General Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz went shopping in the late 1980s for Chinese medium-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear, che

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C516: Imran Khan CPEC Diplomacy: Remodelling Trade Politics between Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China

10 December 2018

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan lands in Beijing on November 3, the latest head of government to seek a renegotiation of commercial terms and/or f

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C513: Journalist’s Disappearance Challenges fragile Middle-Eastern Pragmatism

26 November 2018

Saudi Arabia and Turkey, despite being on opposite sides of Middle Eastern divides, are cooperating in Syria to enable youth and women to acquire skil

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C512: Battling it out at the UN: Potholes Overshadow US-Iran Confrontation

20 November 2018

It’s easy to dismiss Iranian denunciations of the United States and its Middle Eastern allies as part of the Islamic republic's long-standin

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C511: Attack in Iran raises Spectre of a Potentially Far Larger Conflagration

14 November 2018

An attack on a military parade in the southern Iranian city of Ahwaz is likely to prompt Iranian retaliation against opposition groups at home and abr

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C510: Global Watchdog Takes Saudi Arabia to Task for Lax Anti-terrorism Finance Measures

12 November 2018

A Financial Action Task Force (FATF) report criticizing Saudi Arabia’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance measures puts the kingdom on

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C509: Pakistani Poker: Playing Saudi Arabia against China

06 November 2018

Desperate for funding to fend off a financial crisis fuelled in part by mounting debt to China, Pakistan is playing a complicated game of poker that c

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C507: Amid ethnic protests, Iran warns of foreign meddling

29 October 2018

  Iran has raised the spectre of a US-Saudi effort to destabilize the country by exploiting economic grievances against the backdrop of circum

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C506: Regional Players manoeuvre to reengineer the Israeli Palestinian landscape

28 October 2018

  A possible ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, is proving to be much more than an effort to

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C504: Lack of global leadership spurs instability in the Middle East

15 August 2018

With multiple Middle Eastern disputes threatening to spill out of control, United Arab Emirates minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash ac

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C503:Malaysian-Saudi relations: A lesson in the pitfalls of authoritarianism and autocracy

13 August 2018

  Embattled former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was the main loser in last month’s election upset that returned Mahathir Mohamad

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500:The Saudi-Moroccan spat: Competing for the mantle of moderate Islam

02 August 2018

Lurking in the background of a Saudi-Moroccan spat over World Cup hosting rights and the Gulf crisis is a more fundamental competition for the mantle

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498: Israel adopts abandoned Saudi sectarian logic

18 July 2018

Amid ever closer cooperation with Saudi Arabia, Israel’s military appears to be adopting the kind of sectarian anti-Shiite rhetoric that Saudi C

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497: Morocco may have lost the world cup but could lead the way in protest

16 July 2018

  Mounting anger and discontent is simmering across the Arab world much like it did in the walk-up to the 2011 popular revolts that toppled fo

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496: Israel scores painful own goal in run-up to the world cup

11 July 2018

Argentina’s cancellation of a friendly against Israel because of Israeli attempts to exploit the match politically is likely to reverberate far

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492:The battle for the Iranian nuclear deal: China approaches a watershed

12 June 2018

Conventional wisdom has it that China stands to benefit from the US withdrawal from the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran, particularly i

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489: Middle Eastern rivalry spills onto Asian soccer pitches

23 May 2018

  Saudi Arabia’s bitter rivalry with Iran has spilled onto Asian soccer pitches with the newly created South West Asian Football Federat

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488: Algerian controversy over Salafism puts government control of the religion on the spot

17 May 2018

A controversy in Algeria over the growing popularity of Saudi-inspired Salafi scholars spotlights the risk governments run in a region in which they s

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486: Shifting energy import patterns enhance China’s clout in the Middle East

14 May 2018

Subtle shifts in Chinese energy imports suggest that China may be able to exert influence in the Middle East in alternative and subtle ways that do no

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483: Egyptian ultras: Down but not out

26 April 2018

Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi won a second term virtually unchallenged in what is widely seen as a flawed election. The run-u

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482: Anticipated Harder US Policy towards Iran Magnifies Iranian Arab Protest

16 April 2018

Protests have erupted in Iran’s oil-rich province of Khuzestan barely three months after the Islamic republic was rocked by mass anti-government

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481: Natural gas: An underrated driver of Saudi hostility towards Iran and Qatar

12 April 2018

Debilitating hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran is about lots of things, not least who will have the upper hand in a swath of land stretching fro

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477:Surrendering a Brussels Mosque: A Saudi Break with Ultra-Conservatism

21 March 2018

Saudi Arabia, in an indication that it is serious about shaving off the sharp edges of its Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, has agreed to surrender co

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476:China’ Step into the Maelstrom of the Middle East

14 March 2018

The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China’s ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to m

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472: Moderating Saudi Islam: Government proposes tightening fundraising rules

05 March 2018

A Saudi draft law could constitute a first indication that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vow to return the kingdom to a moderate form of Is

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470: How Regional Rivalry Threatens to Fuel the Fire in Syria and Iran

23 February 2018

Turkish allegations of Saudi, Emirati and Egyptian support for the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) threaten to turn Turkey’s military offen

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469: Gulf Crisis Turns Qatar in the 'Region's Israel'

21 February 2018

Prominent US constitutional lawyer and scholar Alan M. Dershowitz raised eyebrows when he described Qatar as “the Israel of the Gulf states.&rdq

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467: Salafi Mission Calls into Question Saudi Concept of Moderation and Policy in Yemen

20 February 2018

Plans to open a Salafi missionary centre in the Yemeni province of Al Mahrah on the border with Oman and Saudi Arabia raise questions about Saudi Crow

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466: Iranian Protests Expose Contours of Leadership in the Muslim World

19 February 2018

  If week-long anti-government protests in Iran exposed the Islamic republic’s deep-seated economic and political problems, they also la

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463: Saudi Crown Prince Power Grab could come back to haunt him

05 February 2018

          Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has won the first round of what could prove to be an unpreced

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459: Getting the Saudi Fight against Corruption Right

02 January 2018

Kuwaiti billionaire Maan al-Sanea should have seen it coming after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed to root out corruption.Embroiled in on

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456: Arab Media: Saudi Purge Promises Tighter Control

01 January 2018

Long-standing Saudi efforts to dominate the pan-Arab media landscape appear to have moved into high gear with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s

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