Top US diplomat in Qatar for soccer, talks amid Iran tension

Nov 21, 2022, 5:39 AM | Updated: 2:14 pm
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reacts as he listens to a youth representative during a vis...

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reacts as he listens to a youth representative during a visit to Oxygen Park at Education City, in Doha Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Karim Jaafar/Pool via AP)

(Karim Jaafar/Pool via AP)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — America’s top diplomat landed in Qatar on Monday to take in a World Cup match and hold talks as regional tensions remain high amid Iran’s rapid advancement of its nuclear program and nationwide protests shaking the Islamic Republic.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a self-acknowledged “great mediocre” soccer player himself, watched America face Wales on Monday night at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

Blinken will also hold crucial diplomatic talks with authorities in Qatar, one of the United States’ trusted interlocutors with Iran. Doha shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Tehran.

Iran also provided airspace routes for Qatar Airways flights and supplied food shipments to Qatar amid a yearslong boycott of Doha by four Arab countries.

Blinken’s visit comes as part of a strategic dialogue with Qatar, which also hosts some 8,000 American troops at its massive Al-Udeid Air Base that’s serves as the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. The base was a key node in America’s chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuation of Afghan civilians.

“Qatar is a steadfast and important partner to the United States, and U.S.-Qatar ties continue to grow,” said Daniel Benaim, a deputy assistant secretary for the Arabian Peninsula Affairs at the State Department, ahead of Blinken’s trip.

“Together, we’ve made important progress on a range of issues, including facilitating the travel of at-risk Afghans to the United States for new beginnings, strengthening regional security, and expanding commercial investment ties between our countries,” he said.

One major issue to discuss is Iran. Nonproliferation experts say Iran now has enough uranium enriched up to 60% — a short step from weapons-grade levels — to reprocess into fuel for a nuclear weapon if it chooses to do so.

Tehran insists its program is peaceful, though it has drastically expanded it since the collapse of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Meanwhile, Iran is being rocked by monthslong protests following the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman who had been earlier arrested by the country’s morality police.

A crackdown by authorities and violence surrounding the demonstrations have killed at least 419 people, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the protests. Iran is playing at the World Cup as well, and will face the U.S. on Nov. 29.

Blinken didn’t immediately discuss regional politics after landing in Qatar. He traveled to Oxygen Park near the Qatar National Library to visit the Generation Amazing soccer project involving local students.

“The thing that’s so powerful about it is everywhere that I go in the world, I find other people who love the game and they love to play it,” Blinken told the gathered students. “They love to watch it enough to argue about it. They love to support a team with all of the joy and heartbreak that that brings.”

“It’s an incredibly powerful way of bringing people together,” he added. “It’s just a powerful reminder of what sport brings us together across geography, across backgrounds and across groups of one kind or another.”

But several students displayed the Palestinian flag as a way to remind Blinken about Israel’s occupation of territory that Palestinians seek for an independent state of their own.

Palestinian flags have been seen flying and around fans’ shoulders, partially due to Qatar’s support of Palestinians. Doha opened travel for Israelis to the tournament despite not formally recognizing the country.

“The Palestinian identity itself is an act of resistance because there are people who wish to deny our history and to belittle our suffering,” said 17-year-old Palestinian-American student Hasan Zubaidi as he stood next to one Palestinian flag.

___

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Writers: Russian attacks seek ‘erasure’ of Ukrainian culture

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops in Ukraine are deliberately attacking the country’s museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, according to a report issued Friday by the U.S. and Ukrainian chapters of the international writers’ organization PEN. “Culture is not collateral damage in the war against Ukraine; it’s a target, a central pillar of Russian […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Talks with breakaway region fail to ease Moldova energy woes

CHISINAU, Moldova (AP) — An electricity plant in a Moscow-backed breakaway region of Moldova will not resume supplying energy to the rest of the country after a meeting between Moldovan officials and representatives of the Transnistria region failed to produce an agreement Friday, authorities said. The meetings held in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, focused on a […]
10 hours ago
FILE - An election worker verifies a ballot on a screen inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office...
Associated Press

NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts: ___ Arizona election equipment was certified ahead of midterms CLAIM: Election equipment in Arizona […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago...
Associated Press

Prosecution resumes closing argument at Trump Org. trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors resumed their closing argument Friday in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, promising to share previously unrevealed details about Donald Trump’s knowledge of a tax dodge scheme hatched by one of his top executives. “Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with his top executives,” Assistant Manhattan District […]
10 hours ago
FILE - The FTX logo appears on home plate umpire Jansen Visconti's jacket at a baseball game with t...
Associated Press

The pandemic, Karens, crypto craziness: We’re over you, 2022

NEW YORK (AP) — The rudeness pandemic, the actual pandemic and all things gray. There’s a lot to leave behind when 2022 comes to a close as uncertainty rules around the world. The health crisis brought on the dawn of slow living, but it crushed many families forced to hustle for their lives. Karens went […]
10 hours ago
Residents wearing masks cross an intersection in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. More cities eased r...
Associated Press

WHO pleased to see China ease harsh zero COVID policies

LONDON (AP) — A top official at the World Health Organization said the U.N. agency was “pleased” to see China loosening some of its coronavirus restrictions, saying “it’s really important that governments listen to their people when the people are in pain.” At a press briefing on Friday, WHO emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Top US diplomat in Qatar for soccer, talks amid Iran tension