Owen Daniels

  • After the World Cup, Will Iranian Women Still Be Able to Watch Soccer?

    The 2018 World Cup is over after a whirlwind month of matches, with France claiming the title. There was no shortage of engrossing stories from the tournament, with political drama undergirding the action. In Iran, for example, beyond the national team’s relatively impressive display, the country grabbed headlines off the pitch for allowing women to attend viewings of the men’s national team soccer matches.

    On June 20, the Iranian government allowed women to watch Team Melli’s World Cup match against Spain in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, reversing a ban on women attending male sporting events that has been in place—though not necessarily uniformly enforced—...

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  • The Gulf's Soccer Showdown

    The World Cup’s knockout rounds are in full swing, and followers of Middle East soccer will now have to root for teams outside the region. Despite some compelling narratives – the dramatic politicization of Egyptian star Mo Salah, Iran’s rags-to-riches goalkeeper saving a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shrugging off his team’s loss to Russia with Vladimir Putin – most Middle Eastern sides rather ignominiously crashed out of the tournament in the group stages.

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  • Political Football: The World Cup’s Middle East Challengers

    The author and political thinker George Orwell was many things, but a soccer fan he was not.

    In an essay titled “The Sporting Spirit,” written in 1945 during then-Soviet soccer club Dynamo Moscow’s Cold War British tour, Orwell called soccer “a game in which everyone gets hurt and every nation has its own style of play which seems unfair to foreigners.”

    He then extrapolated that sport “is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.” Orwell recognized the political symbolism inherent in sport and resented it for being one of many drivers of the nationalism fueling international rivalry.

    Today’s fans might disagree with Orwell’s joyless characterization of sport as “an unfailing cause of ill-will,” but there is no denying that this World Cup, set in Vladimir...

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  • Concern and Uncertainty After Iran Deal Exit

    On May 8, 2018, President Donald J. Trump announced the United States would re-impose sanctions on Iran and withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – better known as the Iran nuclear deal.

    On May 9, the Middle East Security Initiative (MSI) in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security convened a panel of experts for a conference call conversation assessing the implications of President Trump’s decision. Rachel Brandenburg, MSI Director, moderated the discussion, which featured senior fellows Amir Handjani and David Mortlock, board director Dov Zakheim, Future of Iran Initiative Director Barbara Slavin, and Suzanne Maloney, Deputy Director for Foreign Policy and Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

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  • Daniels in AXIOS: What to Expect From Saudi Crown Prince's Washington Visit

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  • Saudi Crown Prince Comes to Washington: 5 Things to Watch

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) will arrive in Washington on March 19 for a visit to the United States that includes stops in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Houston. 

    In Washington, the crown prince will meet US President Donald J. Trump at the White House on March 20. He will also meet members of Trump’s Cabinet, members of the US Congress, and private sector representatives.

    US-Saudi relations, which had become strained under former US President Barack Obama, have warmed under Trump.

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  • Daniels in The Hills: Saudi Corruption Crackdown an Inkblot Test for Experts

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  • Top Risks of 2018

    Risks are not predictions, but many of the threats posed to global security and stability highlighted in early 2017 have unfortunately materialized over the past year.

    Despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s attempts to try to fill US shoes as it walks away from the world stage and defend globalization at last year’s World Economic Forum, it is clear the international community is drifting toward a “leaderless world.” China has taken a selective “a la carte” approach to filling the vacuum as Washington retreats from trade deals and plays hard to get with traditional US allies.

    As the United States turns inward and a multipolar world takes hold, liberal values—their endurance constituted a major risk in 2017—have certainly retreated. However, one bright spot in this regard has been Europe. In early 2017 the risk of an imploding Europe posed a major concern, though happily that did not happen. Still, European Union (EU) reform appears to be slowing down.

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  • IRGC’s Gulf Antics: A Strategy to Undermine the Nuclear Deal?

    Iran’s recent aggression toward US forces in the Persian Gulf may be part of a strategy among the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other hardline elements to goad Trump into a rash decision on the nuclear deal that earns them a political payday.  

    On August 8, Iran flew a drone within one hundred feet of a US fighter jet attempting to land aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. The US F/A-18 was forced to change course to avoid the unarmed drone. This was the third incidence of unprofessional Iranian behavior toward US forces in the Gulf in as many weeks, following two buzzing incidents involving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Navy on July 25 and 29.

    In light of Trump’s antagonistic view of Tehran and his outspoken criticism of the Iran nuclear deal, notably expressed days before the...

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  • Shots Fired in the Gulf

    Iran challenges US policy, this time in the maritime domain

    It seems hard for the United States to catch a break in the Persian Gulf these days. As its Arab partners continue to bicker among themselves, Iran remains a source of tension from across the water. A week after US President Donald J. Trump reluctantly notified Congress of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal and imposed new non-nuclear sanctions, a US Navy ship fired warning shots at a patrol boat operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Navy in the Persian Gulf.

    The July 25 encounter is yet another reminder that the IRGC-Navy will continue to create dangerous, potentially escalatory situations with US craft in the Gulf. Understanding the...

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