Senior Bush administration officials intensified the effort to make the case for military action against Saddam Hussein today, with testimony by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, linking Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Mr. Powell seized on a new audiotape believed to be of Osama bin Laden, urging Muslims to help Baghdad defend itself against an American attack, as evidence that the Qaeda leader was ”in partnership with Iraq.”
In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, focused on the threat posed by Al Qaeda in the United States. He said several hundred Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda were in the country, with some organized in cells that could be ordered to carry out terrorist attacks here.
Mr. Powell told the Senate Budget Committee that the bin Laden statement, broadcast this afternoon by Al Jazeera, an Arabic language television network, demonstrated that the United States could not contain Iraq through more aggressive weapons inspections or an enlarged United Nations presence.
Aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf, cluster bombs primed inside this aircraft carrier and loaded onto jets explode every few days over southern Iraq. But these bombs release a hail of paper leaflets to remind Iraqis the first front of a war is underway.
The fliers warn Iraqis not to attempt to use biological or chemical weapons, not to help Iraqis fleeing the country and to be wary of their own leaders, who might poison the environment during combat.
The leaflets are the most visible part of a psychological battle meant to pave the way for a possible military operation to remove Iraq’s leadership. Psychological operations seek to influence thinking and behavior with subtle and sometimes deceptive information.
Modern “psyops,” as they are called in the military, use leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, recordings, face-to-face meetings, e-mails and cell phone calls. The goal is to persuade enemy soldiers, leaders and civilians to surrender or at least remain neutral during a war.
During the past month, the Pentagon has intensified its leaflet campaign. Coalition aircraft made 11 leaflet drops in January. That’s double the number in the last three months of 2002. This month, there have been five drops.