Jul 12, 2007

The "Al Qaeda in Iraq" Conflation as an Info Op

Some of the more popular liberal bloggers began to complain last week that the White House has been recently conflating the Iraqi insurgent group "Al Qaeda in Iraq" with Osama Bin Laden's "Al Qaeda."

Regulars here have been treated to countless articles on the subject of U.S. military I.O.s in Iraq, of which this official blurring of the proper distinction between our enemies is but one facet.

Calling al-Qaeda in Iraq "the principal threat" to Iraqis, Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, the chief U.S. military spokesman, said the group was the main focus of the U.S. security campaign. Like other U.S. officials in recent weeks, Bergner stressed that al-Qaeda in Iraq is supported by the organization led by Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an assertion that intelligence analysts have disputed.

"Al-Qaeda senior leadership does provide direction to al-Qaeda in Iraq," Bergner told reporters. "They do establish and provide resourcing and support the network," he added, noting that Zawahiri recently released a video seeking international recruits for the war in Iraq.

Analysts and intelligence officials say that al-Qaeda in Iraq is just one of many Sunni and Shiite organizations fighting for power and against the U.S. occupation, and that al-Qaeda in Iraq is smaller than many other insurgent groups. The analysts say that bin Laden's organization provides more inspiration than direction to Sunni fighters in Iraq.

There is a specific goal -- as there is with all info ops -- to the overweighting of the menace of "Al Qaeda in Iraq." We are attempting to influence the target audience (the "center of gravity" in the Iraq war, the Iraqi people) that we don't view the popular Sunni and Shiite militias as our major concern. We are unable to do much about the sectarian violence anyway, so if we can manage to get a sizable portion of the population to aim their militant opposition to the occupation in the opposite direction of our forces, this will be seen as helpful to the mission.

The major liberal bloggers know nothing about information operations, nor for that matter PSYOP as a military specialty. They assume that the intentional misidentification of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" as Bin Laden's group is solely a cynical ploy by Bushco to gain support for the war.

This assumption is erroneous. U.S. military Information Operations are targeted at foreign audiences. When the narrative bleeds back to the U.S. through the news media, however -- the principals are not unduly distressed.

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