DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia -- The United States and Saudi Arabia are preparing to initiate a program of covert psychological warfare as part of any Persian Gulf military action, including clandestine propaganda broadcasts to persuade Iraqi soldiers and civilians to abandon the fight, according to U.S. military sources.
Among operations already in progress, sources said, are efforts to smuggle hundreds of thousands of small transistor radios into Iraq over the Turkish and Saudi borders to provide a ready audience for Arabic-language messages aimed at sowing disruption and confusion across Iraq as war is waged.
With the United States planning to jam Iraq's internal radio and television frequencies, the broadcasts are envisioned as potentially powerful tools of war because they could provide the only information available to ordinary Iraqi citizens and soldiers on the front lines.
"What we want to do is to control what Iraqis know about the war," one knowledgeable source said.
One plan under consideration would deliberately spread disinformation by announcing that Saddam Hussein was dead and urging Iraqi citizens and soldiers to throw down their weapons, the source said.
Other, more overt programs, modeled on the Voice of America news network, could simply relay accurate information about the progress of the war and assure Iraqi soldiers that they would not be mistreated if they surrendered or were captured.
The planned operation would mark a more widespread psychological warfare campaign than was implemented a year ago in Panama, where invading U.S. forces primarily used loudspeaker-trucks to urge Panamanian military and paramilitary forces to abandon resistance.
Military officials concluded after Panama that one of the most serious errors of the entire operation was the failure to secure Panamanian television and radio transmitters in the early hours of the invasion.