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Middle East round-up: Iran clashes with the USA (on the pitch)

Here’s an overview of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Middle East this week.

Politics meets football after Iran takes on the US, Turkey launches another ground operation in Syria and Algeria sentences 49 people to death for lynching. Here’s your rundown, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Middle East and North Africa Editor at Al Jazeera Digital.

Many will tell you that politics and sports don’t mix. But come on, this is Iran vs USA we’re talking about – the political overtones of this World Cup match would always be there. A roll call of some of the world’s most significant events of the past 70 years explains why: a CIA-backed coup against a democratically elected Iranian leader, the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq War, the Lebanese civil war and the war in Iraq – all the way up to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, and then the subsequent withdrawal by the Americans.

And if you need more? Take a look at how domestic events in Iran have affected this tournament. The Iranian team did not sing the national anthem in their first game, a sign the country’s anti-government protesters took as tacit approval of the protest movement. The team then went on to sing in the next two, with some speculating there may have been government pressure – especially after the arrest of a former national team player for supporting the protests. And both pro- and anti-government Iranians were present in the stands, sometimes leading to tense situations, with some protesters even being ordered to remove anti-government symbols by the Qatari security service.

[PHOTOS: The troubled history of US-Iranian relations]

The Americans themselves interfered in the deed. A US Soccer social media account used a modified version of the Iranian flag to “support women in Iran”. That did not go down well with the Iranian Football Federation, which demanded that the US be thrown out of the tournament.

As for the actual football, it was essentially a play-off for qualification to the knockout stage. The Iranians didn’t really show up, at least not until the final stages of the match, and the US won 1-0, sending Iran home.

Turkey, Syria and the operation that may not happen

A few days ago, it appeared that the Turkish army was about to launch a highly threatened ground offensive against the Kurdish-dominated YPG in northern Syria. Turkish journalists went to the border and statements from both Turkey and the SDF (which is largely made up of the YPG) indicated that a battle was imminent.

So far, however, fighting has been limited to airstrikes and shelling that was already underway. According to Turkish sources who spoke to Al Jazeera, Turkey is negotiating with Russia and has given time to meet its demands. This one is far from over.

Algeria sentences 49 people to death

It was a terrible event, reported last August. It began when a 38-year-old Good Samaritan went to help as deadly wildfires raged through northern Algeria. But Djamel Ben Ismail was falsely accused by locals in Tizi Ouzou of actually starting the fires, and a mob beat him to death. An Algerian court found 49 of those involved guilty of lynching and sentenced them to death.

And now for something else

Sub-Saharan Africans make up about 6 percent of Qatar’s population. One of them, a Kenyan named Bernard Wanjiku, initially worked as a taxi driver. But after constant inquiries from fellow Africans about beauty products, he dropped the taxi and opened an African beauty store that has turned into a hub for the African community, especially during the World Cup.

In brief

Saudi fan culture, with all its paraphernalia, shines at World Cup – QatarEnergy to supply Germany with gas for at least 15 years in new deal – Two brothers among five Palestinians killed by Israel in one day – Cocaine ‘super cartel’ invaded Dubai and Europe – Iran says no participate in UN investigation into anti-government protests – Arab teams make Qatar World Cup a home tournament – ​​US army reports missile attacks on base in Syria – Far-right Itamar Ben-Gvir becomes police minister in new Israeli government – ​​Yemenis divided over support for Saudi Arabia Arabia at World Cup

Quote of the week

“Many people say: how can I choose between my father and my mother?” — Fatima Zibouh, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, on whether Belgian Moroccans would support Belgium or Morocco ahead of the latter’s 2-0 World Cup victory. The issue of identity has come up a lot during this World Cup, with many teams featuring players born in different countries and ethnic minorities divided between support for their country of origin or the country in which they were born or live.

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