Daily Israel Report

Israel Reportedly Training Kurdish Forces

Recent reports indicate that Israeli agents are working in Iraqi Kurdistan to train Kurdish commandos in guerrilla war and counter-terrorism.
By Avi Yellin
First Publish: 2/5/2010, 1:02 PM / Last Update: 2/5/2010, 2:17 PM

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According to recent media reports, Israeli military and intelligence agents are currently operating in Iraqi Kurdistan. Their primary role, according to reports, is to train elite Kurdish commandos in guerrilla warfare and anti-terror tactics. The Kurds - whose country is currently occupied by Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria - are reportedly again, after many years, accepting Israeli assistance in their struggle for independence.


Fearing an al-Qaeda backlash, Kurdish leaders have denied cooperating with the Jewish state and have refused to even issue comments on the matter.
 
When the New Yorker asked Mark Regev, then spokesman for Israel's Embassy in Washington, to comment on allegations of Israeli-Kurdish cooperation in 2004, Regev denied the claims, telling the magazine that “the story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it’s untrue.”
 
But American intelligence officials at the time sought to expose Israel’s assistance to the Kurds. “They [the Israelis] think they have to be there,” a senior CIA official told the New Yorker, adding that Israel’s presence in northern Iraq is widely acknowledged in the United States intelligence community.
 
Apart from rumors of Israel training Kurdish commandos, Israeli-Kurdish relations have expanded considerably in recent years. In July 2003 the Israeli government reversed its embargo on Iraq, allowing trade between the two peoples including the export of Israeli military products to the Kurds.

Kurdish commandos have also reportedly accompanied Israeli operatives across the Iraq-Iran border in recent years to install sensory devices meant to monitor suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.

Like Jews, Kurds are a non-Arab indigenous Middle Eastern people seeking independence in their ancestral homeland. Active Israeli support towards a free Kurdistan is seen as a natural and pragmatic policy by many in the region. “By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria,” a former Israeli intelligence officer told the New Yorker.

Hamas leaders are reportedly concerned by reports of Israel operating in Iraqi Kurdistan and have begun investigating the possibility of Israeli infiltration into their own ranks. According to the terror group, the recent assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai could have been planned and executed by Israeli agents operating beyond the Jewish state's borders.