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Iraqi Denial and Deception Far Beyond Battlefield Tactics

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2002, Oct. 8, 2002 – Military forces typically use denial and deception to fool the enemy and protect themselves. Iraq, however, has made denial and deception a finely tuned art designed to convince the world Saddam Hussein's regime isn't cooking up deadly weapons of mass destruction.

An analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency today called the Iraqi denial and deception program "a deliberate, methodical, extensive and well-organized national-level, strategic effort, which aims at deceiving not just the United States, not just the United Nations or even the public media, but, in fact, the entire world."

John Yurechko, a DIA expert on information operations and "D&D," as he refers to denial and deception, spoke to Pentagon reporters today about the lengths to which Hussein has gone in concealing his intentions from the world.

Yurechko described denial as "methods used to conceal state and military secrets, particularly from foreign intelligence collection." Deception, on the other hand, is "the manipulation of information and perceptions" designed to change an enemy's course of action, he explained.

The two go hand in hand. "Denial is the basis for a successful deception," Yurechko said. "One cannot manipulate or blur the truth or lie convincingly unless the truth is first concealed."

Since the end of the Gulf War, he explained, Iraq's denial and deception campaign has had three main goals:  

  • Blur the truth about Iraqi compliance with the Nuclear Proliferation treaty and U.N. resolutions. 

     

  • Keep U.N. Special Commission inspectors from learning the full extent of Iraq's WMD capabilities. 

     

  • Prevent UNSCOM from completely disarming Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and long-range missile programs in accordance with U.N. resolutions.
They've been largely successful in meeting these goals, Yurechko said. A Central Intelligence Agency report released Oct. 4 contends Iraq's D&D efforts have prevented many aspects of the country's WMD program from being uncovered, he said.

He described many of the techniques Iraq commonly employs.  

  • Concealment -- Yurechko called this a "relatively simple D&D technique" and showed a satellite photo of a suspected biological weapons facility comprised of nondescript buildings in a residential neighborhood.

    "The issue for us today is how many undetected (biological warfare) facilities of this type exist," he said.  

  • Sanitization -- A system of "sanitizing" facilities by delaying inspectors and moving, hiding or destroying documents and materials.

    Yurechko described a 1991 incident in which UNSCOM inspectors were delayed for several hours at the front gate of a site at Fallujah while the Iraqis surreptitiously took uranium enrichment equipment out a back gate. He showed a photograph of the trucks speeding away that an inspector was able to snap.

    Sanitization relies on high-mobility and good command and control, he said.  

  • Fraudulent declarations -- U.N. resolutions stipulate that Iraq must make "full, final and complete disclosure on all aspects" of its WMD program. Before 1998, when UNSCOM inspectors were ejected from the country, Iraq made seven different "full and final disclosures," Yurechko said.

    Each time inspectors or defectors revealed more information, Iraqi officials modified their full and final disclosures and provided flimsy explanations for their previous omissions.  

  • Sacrifice -- Officials would often give up already compromised or outdated information to keep up the appearance of cooperation, Yurechko said.

    At times, the Iraqis would try to overload UNSCOM's analytical capabilities by providing vast amounts of extraneous data. At one point, Iraq released records detailing how many ballpoint pens the country bought in the 1980s, but neglected to provide details on how it procured material necessary for making biological weapons, Yurechko said.  

  • Cover stories -- Many will remember the baby-milk plant story from during the Gulf War. After coalition forces bombed a suspected biological weapons plant at Abu Ghurayb, Iraq claimed the site was a factory for making infant formula.

    The site was painted military camouflage, surrounded by double chain-link fences and had armed guards posted at the entrances.

    "The Iraqis quickly prepared a hand-painted sign in English and Arabic. They dressed up plant personnel in uniforms labeled 'baby milk plant.' Then the Iraqis brought in foreign media representatives to the facility for a controlled tour," Yurechko said. "Regrettably there are a number of people in the West and Middle East that believed this story."

    Another cover story involved a so-called castor oil plant at Fallujah. Coalition aircraft bombed the plant in 1991 and again during Operation Desert Fox in 1998. The Iraqis have since rebuilt it again and claim the site extracts castor oil for brake fluid.

    Yurechko pointed out castor beans are used to produce ricin, a deadly biological toxin.  

  • Dual-use facilities -- Manufacturing and public health facilities have legitimate uses for many of the same components of biological and chemical weapons programs. The Iraqis often try to claim such sites are performing legitimate work in the public's best interest, Yurechko said. 

     

  • Sensitive sites -- From 1996, Baghdad sought to constrain UNSCOM inspectors by claiming their access to certain sites would violate Iraqi sovereignty. The Iraqis identified a variety of sites as sensitive until the inspectors left the country in 1998.

    One such site, a "presidential palace" at Mosul, includes suspected hardened bunkers and a command and control facility, Yurechko said. Another site, at Radwaniyah, encompasses 18 square kilometers.  

  • Disinformation -- During the Gulf War, Iraq would simulate damage to unacceptable targets in hopes that worldwide public opinion would force the coalition to stop the bombings.

    Yurechko showed a satellite photograph of a mosque at Al Basrah. The mosque's dome had been neatly removed, but the nearest bomb crater is "some distance away," he said.

    "In this case, the Iraqis themselves damaged the mosque after the strike and brought forth the news media to the location and falsely accused the U.S. of destroying religious shrines," Yurechko said.

    He said Iraq has still not accounted for a large number of delivery systems for chemical weapons. "The unaccounted delivery systems discredit the official denials about having an offensive (chemical warfare) program," he said.

    He also said the country continues to conceal its biological and nuclear weapons programs. U.S. officials believe Iraq will continue this deception for any future international inspection programs, Yurechko said.

    "Iraq has learned some very useful lessons from former inspection programs," he said. "And (Saddam Hussein) is taking steps to conceal and disperse sensitive equipment and documentation in anticipation of another inspection regime."

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    Related Sites:
    DoD News Briefing Slides, Oct. 8, 2002
    DoD News Transcript: DoD Briefing on Iraqi Denial and Deception, Oct. 8, 2002
    CIA Report on Iraqi's Weapons of Mass Destruction


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