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Mounting Evidence Suggests Israeli Operatives Working in Occupied Iraq

by Jon Elmer

The US general who ran Iraq's prisons before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke tells of "unusual" involvement of at least one Israeli agent in Iraqi prisons; but evidence of an Israeli presence in Iraq is less and less unusual.

July 8, 2004 – Further evidence of the presence of Israeli operatives in Iraq arose this weekend when the general formerly in charge of the US-run Iraqi prison system, herself considered partly responsible for torture at Abu Ghraib and other prisons under her command, told the BBC that she met an Israeli interrogator working in a US-run "intelligence center" in Baghdad. Brigadier General Janet Karpinski told BBC Radio in an interview on Saturday that she met with a man who claimed to be Israeli and that he "did some of the interrogation" at the facility.

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Karpinski is the highest-ranking official to confirm an Israeli presence in Iraq. As the head of the 800th Military Police Brigade, Karpinski was responsible for all of Iraq’s 17 US-run prison facilities. She was suspended in May for her role in the systemic torture carried out by personnel under her command in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

Disclosures suggesting Israeli involvement in the ongoing occupation of Iraq are damaging to the US’s already meagre credibility in the Middle East. Anger toward Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, which the US has backed since 1967, as well as its own human rights abuses and reputation for torturing Arab prisoners, render suspicion of Israeli involvement in Iraq an explosive issue throughout much of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Kamal Muhammad, the manager of al-Aswar furniture shop in Baghdad gave a predictable reaction to the Jerusalem Post. "The Americans and the Israelis are one," he said. "They are the same enemy. Israel is just the baby of the US with the same policies."

In an interview last week with The Signal, a newspaper in Santa Clarita, California, Karpinski said she was "shocked" by the Israeli interrogator’s presence, and that the development struck her as "unusual."

But a mounting body of evidence indicates that the presence of Israeli operatives working in Iraq is not at all unusual.

New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh told the BBC that his sources -- which include high ranking Lebanese and Turkish officials -- confirm the presence of Israeli agents in Iraq. Hersh said it is his understanding that one of the Israeli aims was to gain access to detained members of the secret Iraqi intelligence unit who specialized in Israeli affairs, the BBC reports on its website.

In an article last month, Hersh quoted a senior CIA official and Israeli intelligence officer describing how agents of Israeli’s Mossad intelligence service were active in Iraq, while Israeli commandos were training militants in the Kurdish areas of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Hersh found this information to be "widely known" in the US intelligence community.

A top US military official quoted in the Washington Post on Sunday denied claims of Israeli presence in Iraq, calling the story an "urban legend."

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom similarly dismissed Gen. Karpinski's claims as "completely baseless," telling Israel’s Army Radio: "We are not involved in any way in Iraq. We are not involved in training or in interrogations, or in anything else. The whole claim is preposterous."

The Foreign Minister’s assertion is contradicted by significant documentation of Israeli-American "strategic cooperation" with regard to intelligence sharing and training in Iraq.

A December article in the Guardian described how Israeli advisers are involved in training US special operations troops in counter-insurgency tactics to be used in Iraq. The operations being trained are said to include the use of assassination against resistance leaders. Quoting US intelligence and military sources, Guardian writer Julian Borger reported that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US Army Special Forces.

On that same day, the Associated Press ran a story under the headline "US employs Israeli tactics in Iraq," in which American and Israeli officials publicly noted "high-level meetings" and "strategic cooperation" between the two countries on the subject of operations in Iraq.

In a July letter in Army Magazine, Brigadier General Michael Vaneter, the deputy chief of staff at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, acknowledged that he had "recently travelled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their counter-terrorist operations in urban areas."

In relation to the presence of Israeli interrogators and contractors working within US prisons in Iraq, the torture report by General Antonio Taguba refers to "third country nationals" involved in the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq. A company at the center of the scandal, CACI International, has extensive links to the IDF and Israeli military intelligence.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


Jon Elmer is a contributing journalist.

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