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Despite Media Battle, Terrorists Fail to Stop Progress in Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2005 – Despite a desperate media battle in Iraq, terrorists are failing to stop Iraqis from advancing on the political and security fronts, a senior military official in Baghdad told reporters Oct. 30.

"To the terrorists, the media is a vital force multiplier," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, director of strategic communications for Multinational Force Iraq during a briefing at the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad.

That's why terrorists targeted Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, a base for many media outlets, during an Oct. 24 car bombing, Alston said. He called the bombing a signature al Qaeda attack, set to inflict as much death and destruction as possible while guaranteeing maximum media coverage.

"(Terrorists) attempt to use the media to appear more capable than they really are and to intimidate others with attack videos and Web site postings," Alston said. Desperate because they can't gain credibility any other way, they resort to "mindless destruction at the media's front doorstep," he said.

A letter from al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, reflects that desperation, Alston said. Intelligence operatives intercepted the letter before it reached its intended recipient, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the main leader of terrorists in Iraq.

"We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of the (followers of Islam)," Zawahiri wrote, acknowledging that it's al Qaeda's only hope of success in Iraq.

But despite their efforts, "Zawahiri, Zarqawi and others have failed to stop the march toward democracy time and time again," Alston told reporters.

Terrorists failed to stop January elections, the seating and meeting of the Transitional National Assembly, and the drafting of the constitution and the referendum approving it, he said. "They will also fail to stop the elections in December," he said. Iraq's parliamentary elections are slated for Dec. 15.

Alston congratulated the 10 million Iraqis who voted during the Oct. 15 constitutional referendum. Eight million supported the draft constitution, and 2 million opposed it. These people, regardless of how they voted, seized the opportunity to decide their country's future and build a new Iraq, he said.

"A new Iraq is what they will have with the December elections when they select a permanent government," Alston said.

As the political process advances, Iraq's security forces are gaining in numbers and capability, he said. More than 207,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are patrolling the country's streets and borders, and the number of Iraqi battalions taking the lead in combat operations has jumped 50 percent since July.

"These additional forces allow us to continue to put pressure on the enemy every day of the week, and it is paying off," Alston said.

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