Russia Is Winning the Information War in the Middle East

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

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood