Iraqi Insurgents Increasingly Using Internet as Propaganda Machine

ByABC News
February 14, 2006, 5:12 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2006 — -- The U.S. military is aggressively capturing and killing Iraqi insurgents and seizing their territory, yet the insurgency continues to wreak untold havoc. According to one analysis, attacks on U.S. soldiers and Iraqi government forces last year increased 29 percent, and recruitment of new insurgents does not appear to be a problem.

Officials at the International Crisis Group, an independent conflict-resolution organization, think they know why. They say it is the power of the insurgents' message -- and the skill with which they're delivering their propaganda on the Internet.

"In this battle for hearts and minds, they have found a constituency. The insurgency has found a constituency it's able to talk to," said Rob Malley, director of the Crisis Group's Middle East/North Africa Program.

The ICG will release a report on Wednesday called "In Their Own Words: Reading the Iraqi Insurgency." It is, the group believes, the first comprehensive look at the way the insurgency uses the Internet and information the group says we ignore at our own peril.

"What the insurgency is about is not a mystery," said Malley. "It's not a puzzle. They're not hiding it. They're broadcasting it. Let's try to understand it politically, rather than simply have [our] own preconceptions and dismiss it as propaganda."

Propaganda or not, the communications by insurgent groups have advanced far beyond distributing leaflets at mosques.

Early on in the war's aftermath, there were myriad insurgent efforts. Based on Internet communications, there has been much consolidation. The four major groups are, according to ICG: Tandhim al Qaeda fi Bilad al Rafidayn (al Qaeda's Organization in Mesopotamia), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; Jaysh Ansar al-Sunna (Partisans of the Sunna Army); Al Jaysh al Islami fil Iraq (the Islamic Army in Iraq); and al Jabha al Islamiya lil Muqawama al Iraqiya (the Islamic Front of the Iraqi Resistance).

ICG says these groups have monthly magazines, professionally designed PDF files that are distributed via e-mail.