Saudi players for Jeddah United practiced for a tournament in 2008. (Faiza Saleh Ambah/The Washington Post)

Saudi women might not be permitted to drive, but they sure can play basketball.

The State Department has announced its first ever international sports exchange with Saudi Arabia, which will bring eight female basketball players and two coaches from the country to the United States.

It’s part of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign to employ “smart power” — diplospeak for using economic, military, political and development strategies in foreign policy.

The Saudi visitors will meet with athletes from the WNBA and train with collegiate programs while here, the State Department said.

Not exactly the Arab Spring in Riyadh, but perhaps a dribble in the right direction.