Research Notes

Iraq Memory Foundation

Documentation Project

Regional Command Dataset – Box files

Research Note 2: Psychological Warfare Preparation Ahead of the 1991 War

Research Notes are brief highlights of the contents of selected holdings of value and relevance to on-going academic research and political and humanitarian work

The Saddam Husayn regime has displayed a continuous interest in the use of psychological tools, both as a device of internal control and as a weapon of war. Rumor monitoring and management, as well the generation of disinformation are documented aspects of the modus operandi of the regime.

The August 1990 invasion of Kuwait had necessitated an overhaul of the regime discourse and propaganda towards its justification and recasting as an act of restoration of Iraqi rights and/or as a step towards Arab unity. However, in addition to the political and ideological arguments advanced by regime figures, considerable care was devoted to addressing issues of psychological impact on both the Iraqi public and the international community.

RCDS boxfile 024-5-2 contains illustrative documents depicting these efforts and concerns. Saddam Husayn himself, 17 days prior to the outbreak of the hostilities with the Coalition, initiated instructions to party members of all levels about rumors and methods of countering them.

On the basis of his instructions, the Regional Command Secretary Bureau sent four manuals to all Ba‘th Organizations on Jan 5th, 1991, to be used for the education of party members and the general public.

These four manuals are:

“Rumors” from the Psychological War series; Directorate of Information and General Records; Psychological Service Section.

“The Psychological War” from the Revolutionary Culture series; the Arab Association for Studies and Publishing.

“Rumors and the Psychological War in the Mother of all Battles” by ‘Abd al-Ghani ‘Abd al-Ghafur, published in al-Thawrah newspaper on Jan 2nd, 1991. The publication is based on a statement issued following a joint meeting between the Revolutionary Command Council and the Regional Command on Dec 29th, 1990.

“Rumors and Methods of Countering Them” from the book entitled Applied Methods in Military Psychology.

These manuals, together with an article entitled: “Rumors: An Analytical and Evaluative Study” which appeared in the al-Thawrah al-‘Arabiyyah newspaper’s third issue of 1986 following Iran’s capture of the Faw peninsula in Southern Iraq are part of the boxfile.

This material represents the theory, the state of thinking in party and regime circles, on the methods of psychological warfare. The RCDS further includes many reports of the practice of use psychological tools, particularly rumor management. A future Research Note will highlight these reports.

A detailed analysis of the material in this boxfile will allow the proper contextualization of the regime’s understanding of the methods and theory of psychological warfare. Highlights of this understanding are hereby excerpted:

In general: Rumors are provided with definitions elaborating on their elements, types, and “three stages” consisting of: “leveling, sharpening and assimilation.” References are made to “Israeli psychological war”; instructions are provided on how to conduct a successful psychological war action; and a concern is displayed for the goals of rumors in times of peace.

The al-Thawrah al-‘Arabiyyah article introduces rumors motivated by resentment, through examples of such rumors spanning the course of Islamic history, such as those spread “by the enemy following the nationalization of the Iraqi oil sector in 1972,” “by the Persians, their agents, and the Zionists against Iraq’s defensive war of Qadisiyyat Saddam,” and by Charles Martel against the Islamic Arab army led by ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi in the Battle of Tours/Poitiers in 732 AD, which resulted in ‘Abd al-Rahman’s death and his army’s defeat.

References are made to:

Rumors launched by Iraqi Communists in the aftermath of the 14th of July 1958 Revolution. One manual ridicules “the rumor of an imaginary plot” by the Ba‘th party to overthrow the regime of ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim.

Rumors contending the disappearance of top Ba‘th figures every time any of them fails to appear in a public event.

Rumors surrounding “the leading father, Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr’s retirement from the political scene due to his illness, rather than him being compelled to relinquish his post” and make way for Saddam’s ascendance to power within the party and government.

Rumors highlighting the “considerable number of casualties sustained by the Iraqi armed forces in the course of the rebellion and disturbances in Northern Iraq.” This rumor is attributed to the fact that the official media did not cover the events.

Suggested Methods for Countering Rumors include a pre-emptive approach: Requiring citizens to rush and inform party organizations about rumors, their circulators and motivations, if the latter were known. Party organizations are then expected to record and analyze them, then react against them swiftly.

v. 1.0 MGB 05.02.01, ed. HM 05.02.10