Russia Is Winning the Information War in the Middle East

March 31 2023

According to a recent survey, Arabs ages eighteen to twenty-four are more likely to hold the U.S. and NATO, not Russia, responsible for the ongoing war in Ukraine. Anna Borshchevskaya seeks to explain why:

Conversations with elite figures in many Middle East capitals—influential diplomats, government officials, journalists, and businesspeople—reveal a surprising appreciation for Russia’s position, including sympathy for Vladimir Putin’s argument that Russia was forced to [invade Ukraine] to avoid encirclement by NATO.

There are several reasons so many of Washington’s traditional friends in the Middle East are, at best, ambivalent about the Ukraine war. Some of this has to do with their own sense of abandonment by the United States in their hour of need, a common complaint of Saudis and Emiratis who, like Ukraine, have been on the receiving end of Iranian drones—but not, in their view, the same massive showing of U.S. support.

These ideas, however, did not take root all by themselves. . . . Years before the Ukraine invasion, the Russian state-owned media outlets RT Arabic and Sputnik Arabic emerged as major sources of legitimate regional news in the Middle East. . . . Russian state-run media have retained full access to airwaves throughout the Ukraine crisis, enabling the Kremlin to propagate its narrative on the war via regional media. And Moscow knows its audience in the Middle East well. It routinely frames the war as a Russian challenge to the U.S.-led hegemonic order, an argument that plays well in many Arab capitals.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Middle East, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, War in Ukraine

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan