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[] Zarqawi target of info-ops campaign


Zarqawi target of info-ops campaign

WASHINGTON, (UPI) May 9, 2005

The U.S. military this week has been issuing unusually detailed news releases from Iraq about intelligence gleaned from captured insurgents, part of a new information-operations campaign meant to drive a wedge of suspicion between anti-government fighters.

The disclosures are intended to encourage or hasten the implosion of the Iraqi insurgency, which has evolved into a loose confederacy: foreign fighters waging what they consider a holy war; Iraqi fighters loyal to the former regime; Iraqi mercenaries and criminals; and Iraqi nationalists who oppose the occupation, according to U.S. military officials.

By the U.S. military's reasoning, the group will eventually splinter and turn on each other as the factions have fundamentally different long-term interests and are only temporarily united by their common enemy: the United States and the fledgling government in Baghdad. Terrorist organizations are most often defeated because of internal squabbling, a military official said.

The main target of the information-operations campaign is Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's primary figure in Iraq. Zarqawi is believed to be the mastermind behind the wave of car bombings that have killed hundreds across Iraq in the last two years and more than 200 in the last two weeks.

By trumpeting what it has learned in as much detail as possible, the U.S. military believes it may force Zarqawi to second-guess his lieutenants, undermine his confidence in his safe houses and planned operations -- not knowing which have been compromised -- and withdraw from or do battle with Iraqi insurgents he suspects may be wavering.

Over the weekend the U.S. military detailed the intelligence gathered from two captured Iraqi figures with close ties to Zarqawi: Abu Zubaydah, aka Abu al-Abbas, in Baghdad May 5; and Ghassan Muhammad Amin Husayn al-Rawi on Apr. 26 in Rawah in northwestern Iraq.

According to the military, Abbas was allegedly the key planner for both the April 2 attack on the Abu Ghraib prison and the series of car-bomb attacks carried out April 29 within the vicinity of Baghdad. Abbas told interrogators that documents confiscated at his home contain plans and intelligence for the assassination of a prominent Iraqi government official, and he apparently has knowledge about Zarqawi's network members and the movement of foreign fighters into the country.

Amin coordinated meetings for other senior members of the network and facilitated movement and meetings for Zarqawi and foreign fighters in the Rawah region. He also provided information that led to the capture of Abbas, the military said.

"Both (Abbas and Amin) ... have provided Iraqi and coalition forces with significant insight into the Zarqawi network. The most notable details gained from these detained terrorists specifically concern the operations, logistics and locations of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi network members, foreign fighters and suicide bombers within Baghdad and the western corridor of Iraq," U.S. Central Command announced Sunday.

The accuracy of the information being released is intrinsic to it being effective in undermining Zarqawi's confidence in his network and associates; if he sees inaccurate or false information, he will recognize the bluff.

The detailed public release of intelligence is hoped to have the ancillary benefit of reassuring the Iraqi people -- who are increasingly bearing the burden of the violence in Iraq -- that the government and coalition forces are making progress against the insurgency.

It is also hoping to deflate Zarqawi's public image, from al-Qaida's "prince" in Iraq to a terrorist overseeing an organization that is coming apart.

Last week the military released what it says was a letter confiscated during a raid in Baghdad that shows the insurgency is weakening.

The letter was a request for an audience with Zarqawi to discuss operations and to complain about the incompetence of Zarqawi's lieutenants.

It references one leader in particular who told the fighters either they must martyr themselves or leave the insurgency.

According to Joint Staff Director of Operations Lt. Gen. James Conway, there are indications some recent suicide bombers may have been martyred against their will.

"We have seen some instances where an individual has obviously been detonated from afar; he has not pulled the cord or done the self-detonation thing," Conway said. "So we're asking ourselves: What's all that mean? And we don't have the answers yet."

The U.S. government is offering a reward of $25 million for Zarqawi's capture.

"I'm absolutely confident that if he stays in Iraq he will be captured, or if he resists, he'll be killed," Conway said.

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