Yesterday I had the good fortune to be able to sit down with Kaveh Ehsani of Depaul University for an installment of the POMEPS Conversations series. I have always learned a tremendous amount about Iranian politics and society from Ehsani, especially his frequent dispatches for Middle East Report. He's been following the struggles of the Iranian reform movement for a long time, so I was keen to get his sense of the Rouhani Presidency and how it compared to previous presidents such as Khatemi and Ahmedinejad. I highly recommend his fascinating explanation of their similarities and differences in this short conversation:
My favorite part of the conversation was the last minute and a half, when we talked about how the World Cup had played out inside of Iran. I had thought that Iran performed admirably in the one game I saw, when they took Argentina the distance before losing on a miraculous Lionel Messi goal in extra time.
Ehsani didn't see this as a success -- far from it. "Football really reflects politics in bizarre ways these days," he argued. "The Iranian football team highly underachieved... great athletes, great skills, great potential but total failure in the end."
That surprised me, and I'm very curious if other Iranian observers agree with that verdict. I'm always fascinated by the social and political implications of sports. The Monkey Cage ran a fantastic series of essays on the politics of the World Cup, edited by my colleague Erik Voeten, which included this great piece on Iran by Lars Rensmann and Pejman Abdolmohammadi. Anyone want to pick up this thread?
Note: Photo of Lionel Messi courtesy of every Iranian fan's nightmares.