Tracking Number:  171055

Title:  *NEA105 02/04/91 * (02/04/91)

Date:  19910204


02/04/91 *

DISINFORMATION INTEGRAL PART OF IRAQI STRATEGY (Backgrounder from USIA 2882) (1360) By Todd Leventhal USIA Disinformation Specialist

Washington -- Iraq is engaged in a deliberate campaign to spread disinformation about its occupation of Kuwait and the combat situation in the Gulf, falsely charging coalition forces with deliberate targeting of civilian areas and despoilation of Moslem holy places while cynically pretending to link its brutal takeover of neighboring Kuwait to the Palestinian question.

Iraq's disinformation charges usually originate in their media and have been widely and often uncritically repeated by sympathetic media in Yemen, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, and, to a lesser extent, media in Pakistan, Morocco, Mauritania, Bangladesh, and other countries. Iraqi disinformation is often picked up and disseminated by otherwise responsible news media that fail to verify a story's source or facts. Iraqi ambassadors and embassy spokesmen have also made blatant disinformation claims in media appearances worldwide.

Disinformation is a cheap, crude, and often very effective way to inflame public opinion and affect attitudes. It involves the deliberate production and dissemination of falsehoods by a government for a political purpose. Disinformation differs fundamentally from misinformation -- unintentional errors which occur when facts are unclear and deadline pressures urgent -- in its clearly misleading and propagandistic purposes.

Iraq's disinformation strategy is predictable. Its leaders have tried to make it appear that:

a. Iraq is strong and the multinational coalition is weak;

b. Israel is part of the multinational coalition;

c. Allied forces are committing crimes against Islam and atrocities in general;

d. The United States is at odds with various countries in the coalition.

Major Iraqi Disinformation Themes

Targeting of Civilians and Religious Shrines:

GE 2 NEA105

Iraqi disinformation has repeatedly claimed planes of the multinational force are deliberately bombing residential areas, cultural sites, hospitals, and religious shrines in Iraq, including those in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.

The lack of Iraqi evidence of damage to cities and civilian neighborhoods underscores the coalition's stated policy of avoiding damage to non-military facilities. As Lt. Gen. Charles Horner, Commander of the U.S. Central Command Air Forces stated on Jan. 18, "one of the strongest guidances we have had from the very start was to avoid any damage to civilian targets and to the holy shrines located in Iraq." On Jan. 29, Alfonso Rojo, correspondent for the Spanish newspaper "El Mundo," reported from Iraq that bomb craters were no closer than 3 kilometers from the holy sites in Najaf.

In contrast to the policy of the multinational coalition, Iraq has deliberately targeted civilian sites in Saudi Arabia and Israel in what President Bush called, with regard to the attack on Israel, "a terroristic attack against the population centers ... with no military design whatsoever."

Israeli participation in multinational force:

Iraq has repeatedly claimed Israel is participating in the allied coalition's military attacks against Iraq, charging that Israeli aircraft are flying missions against Iraq from Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

Most recently, the Jordanian newspaper "Al-Dustur" falsely claimed on Jan. 27 that high-ranking Israeli officials and generals are in Saudi Arabia "coordinating ground attack plans for the American forces."

To counter these false Iraqi charges, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 18, officially denied that Israeli aircraft had flown to Saudi Arabia. Two days later, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Zolman Shoval, denied that Israel had bombed Iraq. Subsequently, both the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli mission in Turkey labeled Iraqi falsehoods about Israeli planes in Turkey as "part of a serious disinformation campaign."

False Claims of Iraqi military successes:

Iraqi disinformation has consistently exaggerated the effectiveness of its armed forces, saying its military has downed more than 200 coalition planes, "scores" of cruise missiles, and recovered some cruise missiles which "did not explode and which will be used." One Iraqi military communique even claimed that a U.S. aircraft carrier had been destroyed.

GE 3 NEA105 For the first few days of the war, Iraqi claims averaged roughly ten times the actual number of aircraft downed in combat.

The growing absurdity of Iraq's inflated claims versus the real number of allied aircraft downed may have prompted the switch on Jan. 21 to less precise claims of "air targets" (aircraft and missiles) downed each day.

Baby Milk Claims:

The Cable News Network (CNN) was the victim of an Iraqi disinformation story on Jan. 23. CNN's reporter in Baghdad, working under Iraqi censorship, broadcast a report that an infant formula factory had been bombed by the multinational force, a disinformation claim first made by the Iraqi News Agency on Jan. 21. In fact, the building contained a biological weapons production site. U.S. CENTCOM spokesman Col. Gallagher stated on Jan. 23, "this facility ... has military guards around it, barbed-wire fence, it has a military garrison outside. Numerous sources have indicated that the facility is associated with biological warfare production." Gen. Colin Powell said, "It is not an infant formula plant. It was a biological weapons facility -- of that we are sure."

On Jan. 23, the spokesman for a Pritchitt Foods plant in Northern Ireland stated that the milk packages shown in the CNN film had been produced at their plant in Northern Ireland and sold to Iraq before August 1990. He added that the dry milk product was not designed for consumption by babies.

The Nestle corporation said January 24 that it had never produced baby formula at the Baghdad factory bombed by planes from the coalition. While file footage of the plant broadcast by CNN, a U.S. based network, showed products bearing the brand "Guigoz," a Nestle affiliate based in Switzerland, the plant "was never operational to our knowledge," Nestle spokesman Francois Perroud said.

Alleged "clashes" between U.S. and Muslim coalition forces:

The theme of frictions between U.S. and Muslim forces has has become a mainstay of Iraqi disinformation. On Jan. 16, an Iraqi-sponsored story in the Pakistani press falsely alleged that clashes had occurred between U.S. and Pakistani troops. On Jan. 22, the Iranian news agency falsely claimed that 100 soldiers had been killed in a clash between "American troops and armies of Muslim countries" near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. This story was repeated the same day by the Cuban news service Prensa Latina, thereby circulating it throughout Latin America. It was also reported in Tunisian newspapers on Jan. 23. Fabricated claims of clashes between U.S. troops and those from various Muslim countries can be expected to continue

GE 4 NEA105 to surface in an Iraqi effort to anger populations in these countries.

A statement issued by the Interservice Public Relations Directorate (ISPRD) in Rawalpindi January 27 described as baseless and concocted the reports alleging that people have been either wounded or killed in clashes between Pakistani and U.S. troops.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said January 28 that Pakistan's policy on the Gulf is based on principles. Pakistani troops are in Saudi Arabia to defend the two holy places, but are not part of any offensive position.

Morocco also issued an official denial of Iraqi disinformation regarding troop clashes, refuting "allegations undertaken in a campaign of slander aimed at distorting the role of Moroccan soldiers in Saudi Arabia." French and Arabic language press in Morocco carried an official denial by the ministry of information.

In an official statement to the Saudi Press Agency, SPA, January 21, Saudi Arabia's King Fahd said "military operations being carried out today were the inevitable result of international unanimity to liberate Kuwait and implement the Arab, Islamic, and international resolutions demanding Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, the return of legitimacy to Kuwait, and ultimately the withdrawal of Saddam Hussein's troops, which he has deployed along the border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This matter was the direct reason behind the Kingdom's summoning of fraternal Arab and Islamic forces, as well as the friendly forces to support the Saudi Armed forces in their mission to defend the Kingdom and its vital foundations..."

Turkey's Prime Minister Yildirim Akbult said January 19 that Turkey justly wants an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait which would put an end to the Gulf war.

"Apart from this, we have no bad intention against Iraq or the Iraqi people," Akbulut said, "but it would be good to put an end to the dictatorial rule of Saddam. We want democracy in the Middle East," he said.

Turkey's religious affairs director Mustafa Sayit Yazicioglu in a written statement January 31 said the jihad calls against the allied operation are inappropriate and declared that the war in the Gulf is not a conflict between Christians and Muslims.

Other Iraqi disinformation claims:

Iraqi disinformation runs the gamut from alleged U.S. plans to assassinate the Saudi crown prince to exaggerated claims of damage and deaths caused by Iraqi SCUD missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia. Most Iraqi disinformation can

GE 5 NEA105 be traced to Baghdad radio and TV broadcasts, but many stories have also been "planted" in Iraqi-financed media in other countries. Some recent examples are:

-- Iraq has killed 6,000 allied troops according to the Iraqi-financed "Inqilab" newspaper in Bangladesh, Jan. 20.

-- Iraqi missiles have hit the Israeli Defense Ministry and have turned Tel Aviv into a "ghost town," sourced to an unnamed "British correspondent," according to the Iraqi News Agency INA, Jan. 20. More than 1000 Israelis have been killed and 2500 wounded by Iraqi SCUD missile attacks, according to Iraqi Charge d'affaires cited in Argentine newspaper "La Nacion," Jan. 20.

-- The Saudi royal family has fled to Morocco according to "al-Rai'" newspaper in Jordan and "as-Shourouq" newspaper in Tunisia, Jan. 21. This claim was derided as "absolutely untrue" by an official Saudi spokesman in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency on the same day. A similar disinformation story falsely claimed that "25,000 Saudis, including key government figures, have sought refuge in Yemen," (INA, Jan. 22).

-- There have been mutinies among Egyptian, Syrian, and Saudi troops in the multinational coalition according to a broadcast on Algerian radio, Jan. 21; and an article in Tunisian newspaper "as-Shourouq," Jan. 22.

Iraqi disinformation moved into high gear with the beginning of allied bombing on Jan. 16. False and misleading information was spread worldwide, and Iraqi attempts to split the Arab world and undermine support for the multinational coalition stepped up. Iraq's disinformation campaign is an integral, well-designed, and thoroughly unscrupulous part of Saddam Hussein's military strategy. Iraq's false charges seem unlikely to substantially affect the course of the war, but they could inflame public opinion in the area for years to come. NNNN

File Identification:  NE-105
PDQ Text Link:  171055