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Soccer and Security Behind the Scenes at the UN

Soccer and Security Behind the Scenes at the UN
Altogether overshadowed by developing Israel-istine histrionics, the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, stood before the United Nations General Assembly on Friday to promote his vision for a democratic state anchored in peace and the rule of law. He extolled the need for a harmonious state, irrespective of sectarian, ethnic or factional affiliations.

“This is the basis for the path which we are moving on and continually implementing,” Mr. Talabani told the annual general debate.

Emphasizing Iraq’s successful elimination of sanctions imposed as a consequence of Saddam Hussein’s misadventure in Kuwait, Mr. Talabani implored the international community to seek investment opportunities in the country’s rich hydrocarbon reserves.

Touting Iraq’s security gains, the Iraqi President remarked that the military is capable of combating terrorism when the United States withdraws its troops at the end of the year.
Mr. Talabani ended his address with a note of good neighborliness, stating his respect for international obligations and liberal institutionalism. Moreover, he urged Turkey and Iran to resort to diplomacy and dialogue to settle their dispute with the Kurdish community. Both states are currently shelling the semi-autonomous Iraqi region with heavy ordnance.

All told, it was a relatively cheerful, optimistic and ambitious speech on the part of Mr. Talabani. Sadly, it was altogether dishonest. Besides the fact that America may not be leaving at the end of the year, noble overtures to neighbors who are currently bombing your sovereign domain ring hollow. Iraq does enjoy a wealthy reserve of oil and natural gas, but the state still lacks the infrastructure to effectively capitalize on its buried fortune. Sectarian violence is reaching hysteric proportions.

If soccer really can help us explain the world, then FIFA’s announcement barring Iraq from hosting soccer matches – including qualifiers for the upcoming 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Cup – due to security concerns is instructive. The prohibition came on the same day as Mr. Talabani’s cheerful address.

Iraq had previously hosted games at the Francois Hariri Stadium in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil, most recently on Sept. 2 when the hosts and 2007 Asian champions lost 2-0 to Jordan. That was at the height of the American military surge. Apparently things have deteriorated since that time. Recent violence has been glossed over, but General Assembly hyperbole aside, it’s alarming.



Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.