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BBC Monitoring International Reports December 17, 2002

US RADIO PROPAGANDA BROADCASTS TARGET IRAQIS

Text of editorial analysis by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring's Foreign Media Unit on 17 December

The US has stepped up psychological operations against President Saddam Husayn of Iraq with the start of radio broadcasts targeted at military commanders as well as civilians.

The broadcasts, launched on 12 December, are transmitted by US planes flying over southern Iraq. They urge the Iraqi people not to support their president, and accuse him of diverting revenue from oil sales from food to weapons purchases.

And in the seventh leaflet blitz over southern Iraq in three months, coalition aircraft dropped half a million leaflets warning Iraqi forces not to repair damaged communications facilities hit in air strikes on Saturday 14 December.

Overthrow Saddam, US broadcasts urge

The American radio broadcasts comment that "Saddam lives like a king, while his soldiers are underpaid and underequipped... Saddam does not wish the soldiers of Iraq to have the honour and dignity that their profession warrants." They urge the Iraqi armed forces: "Do not let Saddam tarnish the reputation of soldiers any longer."

The broadcasts, which feature Arabic music as well as anti-Saddam messages, aim to "dissuade the Iraqi military from supporting Saddam," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Daniel D. Hetlage.

Other broadcasts, directed at Iraqi civilians, point to the many monuments and portraits of Saddam Husayn dotted around the country. Saying the cost of the leader's ego trip would be better spent on the welfare of his people, the US broadcasts ask: "How much longer will this corrupt rule be allowed to exploit and oppress the Iraqi people?"

Specialist US psy-ops unit

Leaflets printed in Arabic and English dropped over Iraq say the American "Information Radio" broadcasts are on the air from 1500-2000 gmt on five separate frequencies in the FM, mediumwave and shortwave bands.

The frequencies listed are: 693 and 756 kHz mediumwave, 9715 and 11292 kHz shortwave, and 100.4 MHz FM. These are all frequencies that have been used at some stage by Republic of Iraq Radio.

The broadcasts come from Commando Solo aircraft operated by a specialist US psy-ops unit.

The EC-130E Commando Solo is a modified four-engine Hercules transport aircraft that can broadcast simultaneous high-power mediumwave, shortwave, FM and TV signals. The planes can also jam or override local transmissions, in an effort to persuade listeners to tune to the propaganda frequencies.

Over the years, the unit has carried out missions in Vietnam, South Korea, Panama, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Persian Gulf and Serbia. Most recently, it was in action over Afghanistan, broadcasting propaganda messages to the local population and Taleban fighters.

As well as the airborne broadcasts, the US has the use of ground transmitters in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Gulf to beam anti-Saddam programming to the Iraqi people.

"Bombs will do the talking"

The aim of the propaganda broadcasts is "to isolate the Iraqi leadership who are hiding in bunkers," John Pike of the US think tank Globalsecurity.org told the Washington Post newspaper earlier this year.

But not all American military analysts are convinced that psychological warfare will succeed. William Arkin, a former army intelligence officer and now a military analyst, said in remarks published in the Baltimore Sun in November that if the United States invades Iraq, "bombs are going to do the talking," rather than any psychological operation that attempts to influence the entire country.


Copyright 2002 Financial Times Information