Inside the Secret Campaign to Topple Saddam

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YURI KOZYREV FOR TIME

A large statue of Saddam Hussein looms over workers at a sculptor?s studio in Baghdad

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Meanwhile, a key U.S. ally is working to undermine the Iraqi regime's capabilities in the west of Iraq, where Iraq launched Scud missiles on Israel in the Gulf War. U.S. and Israeli officials tell Time that Israeli special forces have been operating inside Iraq's western desert on reconnaissance and training missions, surveying 30,000 sq. mi. for places where Iraq might have hidden the missiles and launchers it kept after the Gulf War. "You sniff around in the western desert," says a U.S. official, "and try to get an idea about those hardened concrete bunkers that Saddam has created to put his Scuds in." In the past few years, members of an Israeli special-forces unit called Shaldag, Hebrew for "Kingfisher," have taken part in the Scud hunt. There are only a few dozen Shaldag fighters, trained to stay in the field for weeks at a time. Sources say that should a war start, Israel will ask the U.S. to allow it to contribute a few three-man teams to the search for missiles. The bulk of the searches, the Israelis assume, will be carried out by British and American special forces. A British source says none of his country's forces are in Iraq—"We haven't got there yet"—but adds they will go in "once it's clear there's going to be an invasion." Washington is doing its best to make those who would suffer the sharp end of such an invasion believe that one is coming—and to tell them what it will feel like. Recently revised U.S. military doctrine says forces must try to "influence the thoughts and opinions of adversaries and noncombatants" by dominating "the information environment." Meaning: in a military maneuver as old as Joshua's fanfare of horns before the walls of Jericho, the U.S. intends to scare the pants off its enemies. In the southern no-fly zone, leaflets are being dropped warning, none too subtly, precisely what will happen to individual Iraqi soldiers if they choose to resist. (Think a rocket smashing into an Iraqi gunner's battery with such force that it leaves nothing but iron filings and body parts.) Such operations don't always go according to plan. On Oct. 3, a U.S. A-10 attack plane was dropping leaflets in southern Iraq warning Iraqis not to fire on American warplanes—when it was fired on. Sometimes the scaremongering is done at a remove. Recently the Washington Post and the New York Times ran stories on the same day claiming that the U.S. was ready to commit 250,000 troops to an invasion; the double whammy stank of a calibrated piece of propaganda.

More ambitious psy-ops are ahead. The Air Force intends to put into the air over Iraq its EC-130 "Commando Solos," planes that will broadcast TV and radio signals to the country. Iraqi opposition groups are turning over telephone numbers of active- duty Iraqi troops to their U.S. military liaisons. If war begins, those in Iraq will get taped U.S. phone messages from their exiled colleagues suggesting it might be sensible for them to stay on the sidelines. "There is a professional officer corps, and they do have contacts outside," says the former U.S. official who in September acted as middleman between Iraqis and the Administration. "What you want to do is build up a capability to make those contacts." In a radio interview, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "Saddam can't use (weapons of mass destruction) himself ... He has to use intermediaries. We are communicating with people in that regime. And the truth is that anyone who is in any way connected with weapons of mass destruction and their use ... would be held accountable."

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