Israel ‘s Presence in Iraq: Challenges Ahead

Mossad’s spy stations in Erbil have been targeted by several drone and rocket attacks so far. However, Israel continues its covert and overt activities in the region, and apparently does not intend to leave Iraqi Kurdistan to safeguard the life and health of its agents. Israel is seeking huge interests in Iraqi Kurdistan by deepening and consolidating relations with the local government. Will the continued anonymous drone or missile attacks on Israeli headquarters in Erbil become a serious challenge for Tel Aviv, or will Israel pursues its interests by prioritising its goals in Erbil?

The Latest Attack

The Israeli base in Iraqi Kurdistan was targeted for the third time in five months. According to Kurdistan 24 Network, citing security sources, at least three drones attacked the US coalition base in Erbil. The Rudaw network reported the sound of several explosions throughout the city of Erbil too. According to eyewitnesses, six explosions were heard following the attack, and a column of smoke rose from the US military base in the area.

Immediately after the attack, warning sirens sounded in the military wing of the airport and the US military base, as well as the US Consulate in Erbil. Coalition forces were put on standby. According to the local media, security forces were deployed to the scene and began their investigations after the attack. However, the NRT reporter describing the attacks on Erbil airport said missiles were used and the sound of three horrific explosions were heard near the airport.

This is the fifth time that Erbil airport has been hit by rockets and drones. The Kurdish Regional Counter-Terrorism Organization also announced in a statement that several suicide bombers had targeted Erbil airport. US coalition spokesman, . Although the Joint Operations Room in Erbil said there were no casualties or damages, and the governor of Erbil said in a statement that the attack was repulsed, Aljazeera reported that one of the drones had crashed in the area where the coalition troops were present and the other had crashed outside. The attacks halted all flights to Erbil International Airport and vice versa for two hours, and climate security forces closed all airports at the airport except for the city centre. The international coalition in Iraq confirmed the drone attack and announced that two drones had attacked Erbil International Airport.

“The attack on Erbil International Airport in Iraqi Kurdistan targeted the Mossad headquarters,” Al-Mayadeen reported in a special news broadcast yesterday, quoting informed sources. “The target was a Mossad spy site that was targeted by Katyusha drones and missiles.” The sources told Al-Mayadeen that in addition to UAVs, Katyusha missiles were used in the attack on Mossad headquarters. This is the third drone strike on an Israeli spy base inside a US-led coalition base in Iraqi Kurdistan since April.

In previous cases, after initial denials by Pentagon officials, the damage and casualties of such attacks on the Israeli intelligence service were finally revealed by Kurdish sources; however, the Americans have resorted to a censorship scenario.

Rodavento reported that large explosions were heard near the airport during the attack and security forces were widely deployed inside the airport; security officials were investigating the source of the attack.

A source in the US coalition forces told Kurdistan 24 TV: “Erbil airport was targeted by a drone, the C-RAM defense system was activated, but it is not clear whether the drone was targeted or not. Security forces are still investigating the incident.”

The Kurdistan region is an autonomous and complex region. Separatist, armed Kurdish groups, American forces and even Israelis, are present and influential in this region. However, they do not have a safety margin and are occasionally attacked formally and informally.

As an alien, non-integral presence in the area , Israel, with its racist and expansionist tendencies and behaviours, has always been unacceptable to most countries in the region from its inception, and has always been involved in security considerations. Evidence of this claim are the wars between Israel and Arab countries which have taken place and still continue in other forms since the establishment of this regime. In order to break out of isolation and dominate the region, the regime considers the ethnic-religious minorities as a strategic obstacle to its security policies in dealing with Muslim countries.

It has sought to make the most of the differences between these minorities and their governments. Meanwhile, the Kurdish minorities in the region, who have long aspired to independence and autonomy, have always been a good target for the regime’s policies.

Under the guise of supporting the independence of Kurdistan, Israel has pursued its strategic goals, economic interests and expansionist policies. In fact, in order to achieve its goals in the Middle East, Israel seems to be trying to support the Kurdish independence ideas and encourage them to form a Kurdish state, while consolidating and legitimising its presence in northern Iraq by expanding its strategic depth.

The natural unity of Israel and the Iraqi Kurds is, in fact, the continuation of Israel’s national security strategy and foreign policy in the Middle East to break out of isolation and expand its presence in the region. This issue, in light of the new developments in Iraqi Kurdistan and the expansion of political, economic and social activities of the Kurds in this country, has laid the ground for the expansion of Israel’s presence and influence in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Accordingly, Israel has begun covert and extensive cooperation with the Kurds and seeks to create a new strategic ally in the Middle East based on the doctrine of “peripheral unity” by having a direct presence in the region or influencing Kurdistan’s economic and social activities. This has increased the sensitivity of regional governments to Israeli-Kurdish interactions and has fueled news and information about Israel’s presence and influence in the region.

After the occupation of Iraq by the United States and taking advantage of the new opportunity that has been created in this country, many Israeli intelligence and military agents have entered Kurdistan and are active there. In this context, 150,000 Jews have been sent to Kurdistan and have been active in various fields, especially the training of Kurdish commando units.

These individuals, some of whom are members of Mossad, are operating secretly in Kurdistan. Some others, who do not even have Israeli passports, are training 75,000 Kurdish Peshmerga, especially in the Qandil Mountains of Kurdistan. Israel also has an indirect military-security presence in Iraq by training a group of 60 Kurds in Israel to carry out operations such as bombings, assassinations and kidnappings.

In addition to its direct presence, Israel has agreed to equip the Kurdish government with Stinger missiles (surface-to-air missiles) in an effort to establish a joint Kurdish-Jewish army.

In addition, Tel Aviv oversees the design and construction of military and civilian airports and the training of Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. On the other hand, some Israeli-affiliated companies, such as the Iraqi Kurdistan Development Organisation (KODO), are also involved in Iraqi Kurdistan arms sales to the Iraqi government.

Israel’s Interests in Iraq

By supporting the Kurds to buy Arab lands, Israel is trying to expand its influence in Kurdistan. A bank with Israeli credits has provided large loans to the Kurds in the region to purchase the lands. In addition, Jewish and Israeli companies have directly acquired large tracts of Iraqi territory and sensitive sites, particularly in Erbil or near areas bordering Iraq with neighboring countries, including near the Tigris and Euphrates. To this end, they are making great efforts to buy land in Kirkuk, even by paying five times the real price. In addition to its rich oil reserves, the importance of Kirkuk lies in its spiritual and historical aspects and the tombs of three prophets there, practically turning the city into a second Jerusalem.

The strong, long-standing ties between the Israeli intelligence service and the nomads of the Barzan region have been investigated by some of the region’s intelligence services. These relations have become especially important in the context of regional developments, escalation of Israel’s security concerns, increased Kurdish maneuvering power and the possibility of influencing the four important Kurdish regions.

In addition to sending Mossad intelligence and espionage teams to Iraqi Kurdistan, Israel has opened a branch of the Zionist Institute of MEMRI in Baghdad, with the aim of investigating the movements of countries in the region and informing the Israeli government of all activities. Carrying out about Israel, the United States and other Western countries in the cultural centres and mass and electronic media of the Arab world, it has started a large-scale spying activity from neighbouring countries under the auspices of this company and other companies. These activities are carried out secretly, and in some cases under the cover of Israeli news agencies, in Kurdistan. On the other hand, Israel, by being present in the border areas of Kurdistan and its neighbours, has turned this region into a spy base against the activities of regional governments.

Israel’s presence in Iraqi Kurdistan has always been accompanied by settings which have facilitated Kurdish-Israeli rapprochement and Israeli influence in the Kurdish region. Among these areas are: 1) The historical background and presence of the Jewish minority in Iraq which makes Israel greedy for this region, 2) Kurdish internal differences, 3) The secular and ethnocentric tendencies of the Kurdish leaders, 4) The common enmity of the Kurds and Israelis with the Arabs, 5) The long-standing Kurdish desire to gain political independence to form an inclusive Kurdish government and their need for regional and supra-regional supporters.

Final Word

With its presence in the Iraqi Kurdistan region and maintaining continuous communication with the Kurds, Israel has targeted widespread goals and interests, which can bring many interests for it. Some of these goals are: The weakening and internal disintegration of Israel’s enemies in the region by supporting the separatist movement of the Kurdish-speaking minority in these countries; controlling intellectual currents and developments in the Middle East; creating a balance of power against the enemies of the regime; controlling regional countries by expanding relations with the Kurds; gaining legitimacy to solve the problems and limitations of this oil and water regime; gaining a market investment; spreading  secular democracy in the region; influencing the Middle East; and realising the historical claims of the regime on the regions from the Nile to the Euphrates.

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