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James M. Dorsey

Senior fellow, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies


James M. Dorsey is a scholar and award-winning journalist.

James M. Dorsey is a scholar and award-winning journalist. A senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute of Fan Culture, James is one of the pioneers of the exploration of the political, social and economic aspects of Middle Eastern and North African soccer.

James has published widely in scholarly journals, writes a syndicated column, is the author of the acclaimed blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer and a recently published book with the same title.

His book, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa( co-authored with Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario), was published in July 2016.

He is currently working on three forthcoming books: China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom, Creating Frankenstein: Saudi Arabia’s Export of Ultra-conservative Islam, and Shifting Sands: Volatile Transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, Essays on Sports and Politics

A two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and a 2013 finalist for the European Press Award, James started covering ethnic and religious conflict as a foreign correspondent in the 1970s.

He served as a foreign correspondent for Dutch newspaper Trouw, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Financial Times, The Christian Science Monitor and Dutch and Belgian radio and television. James was based in Beirut, Jerusalem, Cairo, Teheran, Kuwait, Riyadh, Dubai, Larnaca, Athens, Istanbul, Washington, Lima, London, Paris and Amsterdam.

Beyond the Middle East and North Africa, James has also reported over the past four decades from most major conflicts zones in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia, including Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, Congo, Eritrea, Yemen, the Western Sahara, Columbia, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Kashmir, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Articles by James M. Dorsey

What the Ukraine Invasion Means for the Middle East

Turkey, Israel and Syria have been playing a complex tightrope act balancing their international ties and commitments, while keeping a wary eye on Russia’s imperialistic designs.

March 3, 2022

Ukraine Scenarios for Putin and the World

What kind of Russian occupation – as in Afghanistan? Iraq? Abkhazia? Chechnya? Imagining the day after a Russian conquest of Kyiv is not a pretty picture – also not for Vladimir Putin.

February 26, 2022

Tackling Migration by Fighting Corruption?

Why Middle Eastern and Northern African migrants see no future for themselves in their home countries.

January 25, 2022

Russia’s “Civilizational” Push into Africa

Putin’s post-Soviet world remains a work in progress, but Africa already looms.

January 21, 2022

Is Kazakhstan Russia’s Next Ukraine?

Former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev may be the last barricade blocking a confrontation between Russia and Kazakstan.

January 6, 2022

Sayonara to Iran’s Arab militias?

Iranian support for Arab militias has long threatened Iran's enemies. Now, the tide may be turning. The Iran-sponsored militias may be losing their usefulness for Iran.

December 29, 2021

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Slowly Imploding?

The Chinese-dominated Pakistani port city of Gwadar -- the crown jewel of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) -- increasingly looks like a powder keg that has exploded.

December 17, 2021

Can We Pull Back From the Brink?

Religious and ethnic intolerance around the world threatens to spin out of control.

December 4, 2021

Dismantling Global Hindutava

The extremes of the political spectrum are crushing the political center and breeding radicalism

October 20, 2021

Comparing Textbooks: Even Afghanistan Scores Better Than Pakistan

Societal struggles and reform often take unexpected turns in vast swaths of land stretching from the Middle East into Central Asia.

October 14, 2021

Afghanistan: Lessons for the Gulf Region

The US withdrawal from Afghanistan will likely clarify the Gulf’s security options. Are Russia and China alternatives?

September 3, 2021

Afghanistan: A Bellwether for Saudi-Iranian Rivalry?

Afghanistan could emerge as a venue for Middle Eastern rivalries.

August 6, 2021

Israel: Confronting Central European Revisionism

How Israel’s new foreign minister deprives Central European nations of moral cover

July 6, 2021

Pakistan Quo Vadis?

Why Pakistan's education "reform" is likely to raise eyebrows in Washington and Beijing.

June 23, 2021

Sports and Human Rights: Athletes Speak Out

The idea long promoted by international sports federations that sports and politics are unrelated has always been an illusion.

April 14, 2021

The Radicalism of Turkish, Not Saudi, Schoolbooks

Mr. Erdogan’s actions at home undermine any suggestion that he is adhering to values projected by Europe and U.S. President Joe Biden.

March 21, 2021

Israel and the Arab World: A Tectonic Shift

The truly historic nature of the UAE-Israel deal is in the fine print.

September 24, 2020

Whither the Arab and the Muslim World?

The UAE’s recognition of Israel puts Saudi Arabia more than any other Gulf state in the hot seat.

August 23, 2020

Israel-China Relations: Staring Into the Abyss of US-Chinese Decoupling

Israel will have to walk a fine line between accommodating the U.S. and maintaining freedom of relations with China.

June 9, 2020

Donald’s Trump’s New Pakistani Soulmates

What Donald Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani imams have in common.

May 30, 2020

COVID 19: An Outbreak Anywhere Is an Outbreak Everywhere

One fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will be popular calls to put deficient health care on par with committing crimes against humanity during times of war.

May 13, 2020

Sportswashing: Saudi Arabia’s Dark “Soccer Diplomacy”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rolls the dice with bid for Newcastle United.

April 19, 2020

COVID 19 and the Middle East

From Israel and Pakistan to India, ultra-conservative communities have emerged as virus-spreading clusters. This is not helped by governments reluctant to disrupt ultra-orthodox life by enforcing public health measures.

April 6, 2020

Middle East: How Refugees, Shantytowns and Sanctions Imperil Global Public Health

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

March 24, 2020

Coronavirus and the Middle East

Lessons not learned and opportunities missed: A roadmap to political and societal dysfunction.

March 16, 2020

Iran Plays Chess, the US Backgammon

The moves on the Iraqi gameboard show that when it comes to warfare, military strategy and conflict management, Iran plays chess while the US plays backgammon.

January 9, 2020

2010s: A Decade of Defiance and Dissent

What lessons should protest movements learn from the last decade as we move into the 2020s?

January 6, 2020

The Killing of Qassem Soleimani: The US Misreads the Tea Leaves

The killing of Mr. Soleimani is bound to boost the hardliners in Tehran who are now expected to win next month’s Iranian parliamentary election.

January 4, 2020

Now Russia Accuses China of Technology Theft

China’s copycatting hunger knows no ideological boundaries: Reflections on the fragility of presumed anti-U.S. alliances.

January 2, 2020

Prague Vs. China, Inc.

Czech capital's mayor stands up to China and positions himself both on principle and in Czech politics.

December 1, 2019

Trump and Erdogan’s Blind Spot

Black Sea falls by the wayside in impeachment controversy.

November 15, 2019

Pakistan: Islamists Join the Global Protest Fray

Pakistan, long viewed as an incubator of religious militancy, is gearing up for a battle over the future of the country’s notorious Madrassas.

October 29, 2019

Turkey and the Kurds: What Goes Around Comes Around

Erdogan neglected alternative options that could have strengthened Turkey’s position -- without sparking the ire of much of the international community.

October 16, 2019

Putin (Clumsily) Seeks to Exploit Gulf Tensions

Putin still has much to learn to make the most of the opportunities that arise from the United States’ strategic shifts and tactical fumbles.

September 26, 2019

Modi Seizes Kashmir

The Kashmir crisis spotlights what a civilizational world looks like. Modi, Netanyahu, Xi and Trump stand united in their disregard for international law.

August 15, 2019

1984 Revisited: The Rise of the Neo-Authoritarians

The graphic warnings in George Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984 are as relevant today as they were when it was first published 70 years ago.

August 8, 2019

Erdogan’s Risky China Gamble

Official Turkish delegation to inspect troubled Xinjiang.

July 20, 2019

Middle East: Towards a Nuclear Arms Race

U.S. policy is confounding efforts to prevent the Middle East from barreling towards a nuclear and ballistic missiles arms race.

July 10, 2019

China: Standing Up to US on Iran

Chinese purchases of Iranian oil raise tantalizing questions.

June 12, 2019

Saudi Arabia Vs. Iran and Qatar (cont.)

Saudi natural gas ambitions are likely to have geopolitical impact.

May 3, 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Profound Failure in the Middle East

As Algeria shows, Saudi efforts to spread a counterrevolution throughout the Middle East are coming up empty.

April 6, 2019

Calling Out China on Global Terrorism

A draft U.S. resolution, destined for the UN Security Council and which would designate a Pakistani militant as a global terrorist, challenges China on Xinjiang.

April 2, 2019

Turkey Plants Its Flag in Christchurch

Another move in the country’s battle with Saudi Arabia for leadership of the Muslim world.

March 19, 2019

Pakistan: Caught in Saudi-Chinese Crosshairs

Suicide attack in Iran frames visit to Pakistan by Saudi crown prince.

February 15, 2019

China’s Global Battle over Human Rights

China has turned human rights into an underrated, yet crucial battleground in the shaping of a new world order.

January 23, 2019

The Saudi Battle for India

Saudi Arabia’s engagement in India goes beyond strengthening its reach of India’s Muslims. It aims to reduce the Iran factor in the Indian economy.

January 6, 2019

India’s Muslims: Rich Hunting Ground for Middle Eastern Rivals

How Turkey’s President Erdogan is seeking to expand his leadership claim in the Islamic world in India.

January 5, 2019

Is the US Finally Seeing Saudi Arabia for What It Is?

U.S. Senate resolution potentially changes Middle East dynamics.

December 7, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed at the G-20 Summit

The Khashoggi murder crisis continues to ripple globally, far beyond U.S. domestic politics.

November 30, 2018

Asia and the Overrated Gulf Countries

The Khashoggi crisis highlights why investment in Asia is more productive than in the Middle East.

November 25, 2018

The Khashoggi Murder: How Saudi Arabia Tries to Extricate Itself

To counter possible U.S. pressure, the kingdom is trying to diversify its arms suppliers and bolster domestic support for crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

November 19, 2018

Spineless: The Real Meaning of Smoothing-Over Khashoggi’s Murder

A gruesome murder bares world powers’ flawed policies.

October 20, 2018

Is Saudi Arabia Getting Unmoored?

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is showing traits which Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had previously put on display.

October 15, 2018

Saudi Arabia’s Jig’s Up: Khashoggi Case Reshapes the Middle East

The fate of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi threatens to upend the fundaments of fault lines in the Middle East.

October 11, 2018

Turkey and Saudi Arabia: Engaged in a Journalist-Snatching Alliance?

A Saudi journalist’s disappearance challenges fragile Middle Eastern pragmatism.

October 4, 2018

The US and Iran Battle It out at the UN

Presidents Donald Trump and Hassan Rouhani risk fueling a conflict that could escalate out of hand.

September 25, 2018

Party Vs. Faith: China Drafts Restrictions for All Religions

UN and U.S. criticism put pressure on the Islamic world to speak out against China's actions to rein in Islam at home.

September 12, 2018

UK: Aimlessly Aiding and Abetting Saudi Arabia?

New report questions Saudi Arabia’s utility for Britain.

September 7, 2018

Pakistan: Playing Politics with Religion

By seizing on the blasphemy issue, Imran Khan puts himself between a rock and a hard place.

August 30, 2018

The Turkey-China Debt Nexus

Turkey’s financial crisis raises questions about China’s debt-driven development model.

August 21, 2018

Dissing Canada: How the Saudis Beat Themselves

Multiple diplomatic spats raise questions about Saudi concept of sovereignty and its human rights obligations internationally.

August 9, 2018

Driving Turkey into the Arms of Russia?

The convergence of Russian-Turkish interests is likely only of a temporary nature.

August 7, 2018

Can the US Make the Iran Sanctions Stick?

China’s refusal to cut back on Iranian oil purchases opens up another frontline with the U.S.

August 6, 2018

Talking to Rouhani: Trump Shooting from the Hip? Or Following a Script?

Message to Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Tel Aviv: Don’t worry, U.S. President Donald J. Trump has no intention of meeting his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, unconditionally.

August 1, 2018

US Spurring Instability in the Middle East

Multiple Middle Eastern disputes are threatening to spill out of control. This is largely due to the changed role of the United States.

July 31, 2018

As Goes Fenerbahce, So Does Erdogan?

Uncanny parallels between one of Turkey's top football clubs and the outcome of Turkey's upcoming general elections.

June 22, 2018

Iran Nuclear Deal: China Approaches a Watershed

Salvaging the Iranian nuclear deal could come at a cost China may not want to pay.

May 27, 2018

Playing US Sanctions: China Walks a Fine Line in Iran

The Chinese experience in circumventing earlier sanctions will come in handy with Beijing rejecting Trump’s renewed effort to isolate Iran.

May 11, 2018

Iraq on the Mend?

In the upcoming Iraqi election, Sunni Muslims may emerge with a sense of being part of Iraq’s political process and future.

May 10, 2018

How China Gets Sucked Into the Middle East

While shifting energy import patterns enhance China’s clout in the Middle East, it is still struggling to be perceived as a big regional player.

May 3, 2018

Shooting an Own Goal: China’s Belt and Road Funding Terms Spark Criticism

The recipients of Beijing’s supposed largess regularly find themselves trapped in debt leading to rising anti-Chinese sentiment.

March 27, 2018

Saudi Moderation: How Far Will Crown Prince Mohammed Go?

Despite the boldness of his moves, Crown Prince Mohammed has sent mixed messages about how far he is prepared to go to reform Saudi Arabia.

March 22, 2018

A Saudi Break With Ultra-Conservatism?

The surrender of a Brussels mosque offers hope that Saudi Arabia is serious about shaving off the sharp edges of its brand of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism. Or does it?

February 20, 2018

Asia’s Dark Underbelly and Long-Term Development

Across Asia, governments not only refuse to recognize a quest for cultural, ethnic, national or political rights, but are often willing to suppress them with brutal force.

February 9, 2018

Iran: Threat of Renewed Sanctions Reshapes Economic Thinking

Will the EU adopt legislation that would shield European companies from U.S. secondary sanctions targeting non-American entities invested in Iran?

February 7, 2018

Gulf Crisis: Is Qatar Really the “Region’s Israel?”

Unlike Qatar, Israel is not really in the business of fostering opposition or regime change in the region. Israel largely feels that autocratic rulers are more reliable partners.

February 3, 2018

Is Peace in Yemen Possible?

Even though the wars in Syria and Iraq are dying down, Saudi Arabia will have to learn to share the Middle East with Iran.

December 23, 2017

Transition in the Middle East: Transition to What?

In the Middle East and North Africa, the transition toward equitable economic development and transparent and accountable rule of law will take a very long time.

December 4, 2017

Why Saudi Arabia’s Lebanon Gamble May Pay Off

Hezbollah may choose to focus on its all-important goal of securing Lebanese-Syrian relations, at the expense of the Houthis in Yemen.

December 1, 2017

Pakistan: Where China Hits a Wall

Pakistan, an important node in China's Belt and Road Initiative, is concerned about a neocolonial Chinese effort to extract the country’s resources.

November 30, 2017

FIFA On Trial: More Evidence of Corruption

Qatar’s World Cup back in the firing line.

November 22, 2017

Prince Mohammed’s Latest Gamble

Can the latest Saudi crackdown disarm ever more widespread opposition within the royal family and the military to the reform path and the Yemen war?

November 5, 2017

The Kurdish, Iran, Iraq and US Quadrangle

Kurdish battle positions Kurds as US ally against Iran.

November 3, 2017

Reforming Saudi Arabia: Easier Said Than Done

What to make of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent disavowal of the kingdom’s founding religious ideology?

October 30, 2017

Gulf Crisis: Advantage Qatar

How the Gulf crisis and global pressure related to the 2022 World Cup may have induced Qatar’s leaders to launch important reform to advance social change.

October 26, 2017

The Saudi Paper Tiger

Far from dominant, Saudi Arabia’s future in the Middle East is that of a second fiddle state.

October 8, 2017

Battling for Independence: Small States Stake Their Claim

Beyond the present efforts in Catalonia and Iraqi Kurdistan: How do the strategies of existing small states Singapore, the UAE and Qatar compare?

October 6, 2017

Letting Saudi Women Drive

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imposes his reformist will, while Saudi Arabia’s religious ultra-conservatives lick their wounds.

October 1, 2017

How Trump’s Iran Move Plays Into China’s Hands

The U.S. abandoning the Iran nuclear deal is the height of folly. It aligns Iran with China, and away from Europe.

September 25, 2017

Toward Kurdish Independence?

The Kurds' quest for self-rule is potentially explosive. It puts them in the crosshairs of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Russia and the United States.

September 19, 2017

Cleaning Up the Olympics?

On efforts to disentangle the incestuous and seemingly inseparable relationship between sports and politics.

September 17, 2017

The BRICS Turn Against Pakistan

Pakistan’s hopes to resist mounting U.S. anti-terrorism pressure by aligning itself closer with China and Russia may be disappearing fast.

September 9, 2017

The Two Faces of the Gulf Crisis: Inching Toward Social Change

The two-month old crisis pitting Qatar against an alliance led by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia is proving to be a double-edged sword.

August 18, 2017

The Two Faces of the Gulf Crisis: Arms Race

The arms race in the Middle East sparked by the Gulf crisis and North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs are closely connected.

August 17, 2017

Gulf Media Wars: No Winners, Only Losers

Feuding Gulf States have poured millions of dollars into media campaigns which twist the truth to serve rival narratives.

August 14, 2017

Saudi Arabia Vs. the World

Calls for Qatar boycott fuel fears in Muslim Asia.

June 30, 2017

Saudi’s Crown Prince: A Youthful Gambler

Crisis puts future of Saudi reforms and GCC in doubt.

June 26, 2017

The Rise of Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman

Prince Mohammed could well prove to be the figure that provides Saudi Arabia with a path to the future. But it is a very big gamble.

June 22, 2017

The Gulf Crisis: Southeast Asia Has Seen It All Before

Two competing visions of ensuring regime survival are battling it out in the Gulf.

June 21, 2017

Qatar: Did they Back The “Wrong” Insurgents?

Saudi Arabia and Qatar both support insurgencies, but the Saudis want to enforce a regional order they direct.

June 14, 2017

Qatar: Why Turkey Steps Into the Fray

Turkey steps into the Qatar fray to protect its turf against the Saudis in the fight over Sunni supremacy.

June 8, 2017

The Global Dimensions of the Qatar Crisis

The policy of side-stepping the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is becoming increasingly untenable for non-Arab Muslim nations and China.

June 6, 2017

Hitting Qatar, Targeting Iran

Saudi-UAE campaign to isolate Qatar and Iran puts Muslim nations in a bind.

June 5, 2017

The Muslim World’s Struggle to Counter Militancy

The real downsides of Donald Trump’s choice in Saudi Arabia to prioritize commerce at the expense of principle.

May 25, 2017

Pakistan Vs. China’s Grand Designs

The Muslim nation stands in the way of China’s “One Belt, One Road” dubbed plan for Chinese dominance and authoritarianism.

May 19, 2017

The Pope in Egypt: Tiptoeing Through a Minefield

Pope Francis is shining a spotlight on complex battles for the soul of Islam as well as the survival of autocracy in the Middle East and North Africa.

April 30, 2017

Trump and China: Risking a Middle East Arms Race

The United States and China both cozying up to Saudi Arabia (and irritating Iran) could mean global trouble.

April 26, 2017

The U.S. Diplomatic Dangles Toward Iran

How the U.S. government constantly cozies up to Saudi Arabia.

April 26, 2017

What Trump’s Syria Bombing Really Means

With one military action, the new U.S. President has managed to thoroughly confound his fiercest supporters and critics.

April 9, 2017

Iran’s Surprisingly Strong Geopolitical Hand

While the short-term outlook still looks uncertain for Iran, the larger fundamentals hugely favor it.

March 12, 2017

Walking a Tightrope: China Maneuvers Between Saudi Arabia and Iran

The Saudi royals hope to turn China away from Iran during a state visit.

March 11, 2017

The China Dream Hits Reality

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

February 26, 2017

Women’s Gyms Lay Bare Limits of Saudi Reforms

Saudi women will continue to suffer a decline in physical and mental health, beyond their lack of social, economic and political status.

February 19, 2017

Trump Vs. Pakistan

As Trump is pressured to confront Pakistan for support of militants, Pakistan is one area where China and the US could find common cause.

February 10, 2017

Tackling Iran: Trump Fuels the Fire

The Trump administration risks fueling sectarianism across the Muslim world.

February 6, 2017

What Will Trump Do About Saudi Arabia?

Having vowed to "eradicate" "radical Islamic terrorism," the new US president cannot stand by idly regarding Saudi Arabia's actions in Africa.

February 3, 2017

Russia Spreads Its Wings in the Gulf

Qatari cooperation with Russia reflects new global realities.

January 22, 2017

2017: Saudi Arabia’s Annus Horribilis?

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

January 11, 2017

Trump’s Middle East: Back to the Future

The U.S. government under Trump may be on the verge of returning to the old policy of transaction-based support of autocratic regimes in the Middle East.

December 26, 2016

Istanbul Bombings: Kurds and Erdogan Playing Political Football

The Besiktas bombing raises important questions about counter-terrorism strategy and truth telling in Turkey.

December 12, 2016

Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Mirage

Reformist Saudi prince bounces up against flawed education system and ingrained social mores.

November 19, 2016

Egypt’s Al-Sisi Under Pressure

Egypt’s president promises change, but does he really mean it?

November 6, 2016

A Rare Saudi-Iranian Détente: No Soccer, Please!

When sports loses its conflict-transcending character: Saudi and Iranian religious scholars agree that football poses a threat.

October 8, 2016

UAE Vs. Saudi: Fighting for the Soul of Islam

In a battle of the paymasters, the UAE leads frontal assault on Saudi-backed ultra-conservative movements.

October 1, 2016

Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-Conservatism

The monster that Saudi Arabia created may come to haunt itself -- at home.

August 26, 2016

The “Boytrap”: When the Islamic State Goes to Play Soccer

With mosques under surveillance, IS turns to soccer for recruitment

August 19, 2016

Who Drives Political Violence in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s generals like to blame their country’s cycle of political violence on foreign forces. In reality, it is largely home-made.

August 13, 2016