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US losing battle for Iraqi public opinion: report

A new report by US embassy in Baghdad says that despite spending millions of dollars, Washington has lost the battle for Iraqi public opinion.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2007 13:08 IST

Despite spending millions of dollars, the United States has lost the battle for Iraqi public opinion, according to a new report prepared by American embassy in Baghdad.

"Insurgents, sectarian elements and others are taking control of the message public level," Newsweek magazine quoted the report, prepared by the embassy's director of strategic communications Ginger Cruz, as saying.

"Videos of the US soldiers being shot and blown up, and of the bloody work of sectarian death squads, are now pervasive and the images inspire new recruits and intimidate those who might stand against them," it said.

"Inadequate message control in Iraq," the document warned, "is feeding the escalating cycle of violence."

The magazine quoted an embassy spokesperson as saying the report represents Cruz's personal views.

Sunni insurgents in particular have become expert at using technology to underscore -- some would say exaggerate -- their effectiveness, the magazine said.

"The sophistication of the way the enemy is using the news media is huge," Lt Gen Peter Chiarelli, the former commander of US forces in Iraq, told the magazine just before he returned to the United States.

Most large-scale attacks on US forces, the magazine says, are now filmed, often from multiple camera angles, and with high-resolution cameras.

The footage is slickly edited into dramatic narratives: quick-cut images of Humvees exploding or US soldiers being felled by snipers are set to inspiring religious soundtracks or chanting, which lends them a triumphant feel.

"Literally, it's only hours after an attack and (the videos) are available," Andrew Garfield, a British counter-insurgency expert who has advised US forces in Baghdad, told the magazine. "You can really say it's only a cell-phone call away."

What the insurgents understand better than the Americans, it said, is how Iraqis consume information.

Popular Arab satellite channels like Al- Jazeera and Al-Arabiya air far more graphic images than are typically seen on US TV, it points out and quotes US military officials as saying it leaves the impression that America is on the run.

At the extreme is the Zawra channel, run by former Sunni parliamentarian Mishan Jibouri, who fled to Syria last year after being accused of corruption.

Jibouri says he's being persecuted for political reasons, and can return to Iraq whenever he wants.

Since November, Newsweek said, the channel has been spewing out an unending series of videos showing American soldiers being killed in sniper and IED attacks.

The clips are accompanied by commentary, often in English, admonishing Iraqis to "focus your utmost rage against the occupation."

"I get e-mails from girls in their 20s from Arab countries; some of them are very wealthy," Jibouri is quoted as saying. "Some offer to work for free, some offer money."