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In its effort to contain and deter Iran, the U.S. has implemented crushing economic sanctions, secret counter-proliferation action, devastating Pink Floyd covers, and even the threat of possible air strikes. But now the Iran-U.S. conflict, which has improved little since the 1979 revolution and hostage crisis, will finally see its conclusion and ultimate resolution at a high-profile basketball match. The U.S. and Iranian teams are squaring off today as part of the FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

PBS Frontline's Neri Zilber writes, "the tournament has a broader geopolitical dimension that has been overlooked in these last days of summer. If 'serious sport,' as George Orwell once said, 'is war minus the shooting,' then any matchup between two ostensibly hostile states on the playing field, and not the killing field, should be welcomed as progress and an opportunity for a thawing of relations."

The last international sports match between the two nations was a 1998 World Cup soccer competition in France, which Iran won 2-1. Only five short years later, U.S. President George W. Bush controversially declared Iran a member of the three-state "Axis of Evil." The obviously retaliatory gesture has been followed by a steep decline in U.S.-Iran relations; that the U.S. invaded two of Iran's neighbors may have also played a secondary role.

After all the harsh rhetoric and low-level violence, three decades of Iran-U.S. tension will come to a close this afternoon. If the U.S. wins, Iran has agreed it will give up its nuclear program and cede power to the Green Movement. If Iran wins, President Obama says he will implement sharia law, although he was probably going to do that anyway.

Update: The U.S. wins, 88 to 51.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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