Russia’s Growing Soft Power in the Middle East

July 29 2019

Over the past years, in addition to its military campaign in Syria and its attempt to establish itself as a sympathetic mediator between the Taliban and other Afghan groups, the Kremlin has worked in less direct ways to increase its influence throughout the Middle East. Shay Attias explains:

[T]he decrease in America’s standing in the Middle East works to enhance Russia’s position as a regional peace broker. Vladimir Putin has put Russia in a preeminent regional position through the classical hard-power tool of fighting in Syria while simultaneously talking “peace” with the Taliban, who are still killing Americans. This is not a random success. As early as 2012, Putin was already openly discussing [such efforts].

Russia has also built up the international media channel RT, formerly known as “Russia Today.” RT is working hard on its Arabic service—RT Arabic is one of the largest TV networks in the region (along with Al Jazeera). Labeled “Putin propaganda” by the U.S., RT has had much success at pushing the Russian perspective. . . . RT Arabic has 6.3 million monthly users in six Arabic-speaking countries: Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Jordan.

If there is in fact a soft-power battle between Russia and the U.S. in the Middle East, most [indicators] suggest that Moscow has the momentum. Two recent regional polls show that Arabs aged eighteen to twenty-four increasingly view Russia as an ally and the U.S. as unreliable or worse. The percentage of young Arabs who see the U.S. as an ally dropped from 63 percent in 2016 to 35 percent last year. Russia is increasingly regarded as the top non-Arab ally by young people in the Middle East, with 20 percent seeing it as the region’s best friend outside the Middle East and North Africa.

Unless Washington pushes back, concludes Attias, it will soon find itself at a significant disadvantage.

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More about: Middle East, Russia, Syria, Taliban

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media