The photo -- and the event itself -- gave the president a patina of international legitimacy and credibility. That's exactly why the International Olympic Committee, whose values purport to be 'Friendship, Respect, Excellence,' should never have permitted the European Games to take place in Azerbaijan, a country with a dismal human rights record.
Against a backdrop of the violent redrawing of the map of the Middle East as minorities assert their rights, rebels challenge the existing order, and militant Islamists seek to carve up the post-colonial order, Iranian soccer pitches are signalling that the Islamic republic is not totally immune to the region's upheaval.
It's often said that you can't get economists to agree on anything. Well, oil economists certainly can't agree on future prices, with commentators suggesting anything from $20 to $200. Seldom has there been such a discrepancy in forecasting, though the median forecasts seem to be somewhere between $60 and $70.
Journalists and free-expression advocates sit in Azerbaijani jails in record numbers. Their lot is growing. The systematic shutdown of dissenting voices and their outlets are clear violations of commitments on free media and free expression that Azerbaijan has signed on to as a participating State of the OSCE.