Russia’s Anti-Western, Pro-Assad Propaganda for the Arab World

In 2007, the Kremlin-owned television- and Internet-news platform RT (formerly Russia Today) opened an Arabic-language channel, which has since then become one of the most popular news outlets in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and several other Arab countries. RT, which began in 2005, offering only English-language broadcasting, was created to distribute pro-Russian propaganda to a non-Russian audience; it subsequently has created television channels, websites, and social- media accounts in several other languages. To RT, Moscow more recently added the Sputnik news service, which also features extensive Arabic-language content. Anna Borshchevskaya and Catherine Cleveland analyze the perspectives being spread by the two networks in the Middle East:

The RT and Sputnik websites typically publish brief news articles and occasionally longer op-eds. The quickly published factual articles help shape media opinion primarily through click-bait titles that often editorialize otherwise neutral content. Meanwhile, the lengthier op-eds and TV segments tend to present more overtly conspiratorial points of view, such as the video segment “The Vatican, the Masons, the CIA, and the Mafia . . . with Documents, Names, and Records of Assassinations” or the op-ed “Israel Announces Its Rights; The Crimea Is Ours.” Relying on conspiracy theories to develop a sense of “revealing the truth” is a tactic RT Arabic shares with its English-language sibling. . . .

[While] RT English has adopted a style that often employs sarcasm and irony to suggest holes in a “dominant narrative,” . . . RT Arabic relies on established media narratives—and specifically those that reinforce an anti-Western perspective. . . .

And while RT’s English-language coverage often inserts a positive picture of the Assad regime in a supposedly “alternative” view of groups such as the White Helmets, a volunteer aid outfit, [RT Arabic’s] coverage of Syria emphasizes Russia’s control over the situation, as exemplified in the assertion that Israel’s July 2018 downing of an Iranian drone over Israeli airspace occurred after affirming the drone was not of Russian origin, and in the repeated emphasis on both Russian and Assad military successes against “terrorists.” RT frames its coverage to cause maximum distrust of Syrian opposition groups. . . .

Coverage of Israel embodies RT Arabic’s inconsistent tone when faced with delicate subject matter. On the one hand, RT Arabic relies on the longstanding media practices of Arab countries, such as a focus on Israel’s military and civil actions against Palestinian communities and conspiracy theories about the reach of the Mossad. On the other hand, RT presents Israel as cautious and respectful of Russia’s regional interests. Such coverage lines up with the Kremlin’s desire to portray itself as a great power, to which a country like Israel is beholden.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Media, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat