The IDF’s Arabic-Language Social-Media War

Feb. 15 2018

After serving for more than a decade as the Israeli military’s chief Arabic-language spokesman, Major Avichay Adraee had become a fixture on Arabic news programs. Last summer, he decided to expand his efforts by taking Israel’s cold war with Hizballah to Facebook. Elhanan Miller writes:

Hizballah [members have] developed the habit of tweeting greetings from their posts in Syria to loved ones back in Lebanon. One combatant, his face unseen in the photo, thought it funny to address Adraee directly by holding up a cardboard sign: “We are practicing on the Nusra Front [a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate currently at war with Hizballah] in preparation to occupy the Galilee.” . . .

Adraee retorted on Facebook, bashing Hizballah for attacking a field hospital that treats Syrian refugees in the Arsal region, near the border with Lebanon. “My response, I thought, left us even,” Adraee said. “But the following day another fighter from [Hizballah’s] Radwan Force appeared, in full fatigue, with a similar sign reading, ‘When we finish with the takfiris’”—a pejorative term for Islamist Sunni fighters—“‘we’ll come for you.’”

At this point, Adraee and his team decided to up the ante. IDF intelligence provided him with photos of undercover Hizballah agents positioned along the border with Israel. Adraee promptly published the images among the Syrian population, adding a warning that “these are Hizballah men endangering you.” . . .

Since its launch on Facebook four years ago, the official IDF Arabic spokesman’s page—boasting over 1.2 million followers—uses Avichay Adraee as its brand. The same is true for Twitter, with 177,000 followers. As a result, he has become a household name across the Arab Middle East, with spoofs and parodies displaying the uniformed, eloquent Israeli on a regular basis. . . . It is hard to gauge the effect of the army’s Arabic activity on social media, but Adraee said several positive indicators cannot be denied. [He uses as one] yardstick for success the growing use by Arab media of the term “Israel Defense Forces” when referring to the Israeli army. “That term used to be unacceptable [in Arabic media]. . . . The change is slow and small, but extremely significant.”

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More about: Arab World, Hizballah, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Social media

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey