Every cable message consists of three parts:
- The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
- The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
- The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09RPODUBAI235.
|09RPODUBAI235||2009-06-09 14:02||2010-12-06 15:03||CONFIDENTIAL||Iran RPO Dubai|
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 RPO DUBAI 000235 SIPDIS EO 12958 DECL: 6/9/2019 TAGS PGOV, PREL, PINR, KDEM, IR SUBJECT: IRAN’S FIRST FAN: DISSATISFACTION WITH AHMADINEJAD MAY EXTEND FROM THE SOCCER PITCH TO THE BALLOT BOX DUBAI 00000235 001.2 OF 003 CLASSIFIED BY: Timothy Richardson, Acting Director, Iran Regional Presence Office, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) ¶1. (C) Summary: As emotions run high following a week of adversarial debates between Iran’s four presidential candidates, the outcome of the national soccer team’s World Cup qualifying match against the UAE could add to voters’ dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad just 36 hours before they head to the polls. President Ahmadinejad has worked hard to associate himself with Iran’s beloved national team - “Team Melli” - a tactic that backfired in March when he was accused of “jinxing” the team, which suffered a last-minute defeat to Saudi Arabia just after Ahmadinejad entered the stadium. That event, coupled with an unexpected loss by the national wrestling team with Ahmadinejad in attendance earlier in the year, set off a firestorm of SMS messages and internet jokes holding the President personally responsible for the teams’ defeats, and has led numerous IRPO contacts to predict - only partially in jest - that a loss to the UAE team in Tehran on June 10 could further weaken Ahmadinejad’s standing among soccer-crazed Iranians. End summary. MIXING SPORTS AND POLITICS -------------------------- ¶2. (SBU) Since British oil workers first introduced the sport to Iranians in the early 20th century, soccer has developed into one of Iran’s most popular past times, rivaled only by wrestling. Although the Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq War hindered the development of professional soccer in Iran until the early 1990’s, Team Melli came into international prominence in 1998 when it made its World Cup debut in France. Although Iran failed to advance beyond the first round, Team Melli’s memorable 2-1 victory over the U.S., in what was considered to be a particularly friendly and sportsmanlike match, cemented the national team’s standing in the eyes of many Iranians. ¶3. (C) As a result of its enormous domestic fan base, soccer has become highly politicized in Iran. According to an IRPO contact closely involved with Iranian professional soccer, the Iranian government is well aware of the potential domestic unrest that can result from a Team Melli loss - or even win. Iran’s successful World Cup qualifiers in 1997 and 2005 resulted in massive celebrations in the streets of Tehran, marked by public intoxication, dancing, and women removing their hijabs, while Team Melli’s elimination from the 2001 World Cup qualifiers led to rioting. Contacts tell IRPO that the Iranian government worries that public unrest over a Team Melli loss could add fire to the increasingly volatile political demonstrations that have paralyzed Tehran in recent nights. ¶4. (C) President Ahmadinejad, in particular, has staked a great deal of political capital in Iranian soccer. A personal fan and former player, Ahmadinejad has made several press appearances practicing with Team Melli. In an effort to capitalize on soccer’s popularity with constituents, Ahmadinejad, a political conservative, went so far as to call for the inclusion of women at men’s games in 2006, although he was overruled by Supreme Leader Khamenei in a rare, but significant, open disagreement between the two men. As a direct result of Ahmadinejad’s close ties to Iran’s national soccer team, several European politicians and Jewish groups unsuccessfully lobbied for Iran’s disqualification from the 2006 World Cup. After the team’s poor performance in the World Cup qualifiers, Ahmadinejad fired Team Melli’s coach in June 2006, reportedly for “damaging national pride,” and launched an investigation into corruption in the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI). In November 2006, the Fidiration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) temporarily disqualified Team Melli from international tournaments for Ahmadinejad’s repeated violations of FIFA’s political interference rules. THE GEORGE STEINBRENNER OF IRAN ------------------------------- DUBAI 00000235 002.2 OF 003 ¶5. (SBU) Despite the 2006 FIFA suspension, Ahmadinejad’s personal involvement in Team Melli has only grown in significance. In June 2008, Ahmadinejad, with the assistance of Seyyed Hasan Khomeini, Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson, successfully pressured the FFIRI to lift its suspension of star Ali Karimi in order for him to play in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. According to press reports, Ahmadinejad was personally involved in the firing of coach Ali Daei after Iran’s loss to Saudi Arabia in March 2009. Team Melli’s next coach, Mohammad Mayeli-Kohan, only lasted two weeks in the politically-charged environment. With Ahmadinejad’s support, Team Melli eventually settled on American citizen and former 1998 World Cup U.S. team assistant coach Afshin Ghotbi, who was greeted with a hero’s welcome by Iranian fans at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport. Ahmadinejad personally loaned Team Melli his presidential plane to travel to Pyongyang for Ghotbi’s debut match against North Korea on June 6. ¶6. (C) Because of the government’s strong influence - IRPO’s contact claims that Iranian intelligence services have files on most prominent soccer figures - Team Melli’s players, most of whom were born after the Revolution, XXXXXXXXXXXX. However, the heightened intensity of this year’s campaign season has inspired a number of prominent soccer officials, including the managing board of Zob Ahan Football Club and the former coach of Persepolis Football Club, to endorse Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Soccer fans, too, have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the Ahmadinejad administration. The same contact told IRPO that the crowd turned on Ahmadinejad’s deputies, Vice President for Executive Affairs Ali Saeedlou and Vice President for Physical Education Mohammad Ali Abadi, after Persepolis, the most popular and successful of Iran’s government-owned clubs, lost to Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor Football Club in last week’s AFC Champions League match. Iranian fans reportedly cheered “we don’t want political soccer” and began to pelt the two administration officials, before security arrived to escort them out of the stadium. ¶7. (C) Despite Ahmadinejad’s support, Iran’s chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup are slim. Following last week’s disappointing 0-0 draw against North Korea, Team Melli will play the UAE in Tehran on June 10, two days before the presidential election. Although the UAE is widely recognized as the worst team in Iran’s qualifying group, Team Melli tied UAE 1-1 when they last met in November 2008. A loss to the UAE, Iran’s political and economic rival across the Strait of Hormuz, would be deeply embarrassing to Iranian national pride and could very well damage Ahmadinejad’s image in the mind of the Iranian electorate. According to contacts, Ahmadinejad “cannot afford” a loss on the eve of the election in such a tight race. Some in Iran doubt that Ahmadinejad will even make an appearance at the UAE match after he was deemed a “jinx” by superstitious fans, who linked his arrival at Azadi Stadium for Iran’s last home match against Saudi Arabia with the downturn in the game. However, Ahmadinejad has given no indication that he plans to disassociate himself from Team Melli on the verge of elimination. “Unfortunately, this sport has been afflicted with some very bad issues,” he told Iranian media on June 7. “I must intervene personally to push aside these destructive issues.” COMMENT ------- ¶8. (C) Through his decidedly public involvement with Team Melli, Ahmadinejad has inextricably linked himself to the outcome of Iran’s bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. The presidential election, which has become hotly contested over recent days as Ahmadinejad has cast aspersions on his rivals and drawn other powerful elites into the fray by making sweeping allegations of corruption, is increasingly turning into a referendum on Ahmadinejad himself. Though many serious issues will draw Iranians to the polls on June 12, one cannot overlook the effect that the result of the June 10 Iran-UAE match, especially an embarrassing loss, could have on Ahmadinejad’s electoral fortunes. To many, the state of soccer in Iran today DUBAI 00000235 003.2 OF 003 reflects the problems that Ahmadinejad’s challengers claim the country has suffered under his administration. Whereas Iran achieved international prominence in the 1998 World Cup under Khatami, Ahmadinejad’s politicization of the sport has compromised Team Melli’s standing on the world stage, and in many Iranians’ eyes, further jeopardized the country’s national pride. RICHARDSON
VZCZCXRO4299 RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK RUEHTRO DE RUEHDIR #0235/01 1601424 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 091424Z JUN 09 FM RPO DUBAI TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0424 INFO RUEHDIR/RPO DUBAI 0425 RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0347 RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL