Photo: AP
Kurds celebrating the fall of Saddam
Photo: AP
Photo: AP
Kurdish fighter in northern Iraq
Photo: AP

Israelis trained Kurds in Iraq

Exclusive: A number of Israeli companies have won contracts with the Kurdish government in northern Iraq to train and equip Kurdish security forces and build an international airport, Yedioth Ahronoth reports; al-Qaeda warning of attack prompts hasty exit of all Israeli instructors from region

Dozens of Israelis with a background in elite military combat training have been working for private Israeli companies in northern Iraq where they helped the Kurds establish elite anti-terror units, Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronot revealed Thursday.


According to the report, the Kurdish government contracted Israeli security and communications companies to train Kurdish security forces and provide them with advanced equipment.


Motorola Inc. and Magalcom Communications and Computers won contracts with the Kurdish government to the tune of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.


The flagship of the contracts is the construction of an international airport in the northern Kurdish city of Ibril, a stepping stone towards the fulfillment of Kurdish national aspirations for independence.


In addition to Motorola and Magalcom, a company owned by Israeli entrepreneur Shlomi Michaels is in full business partnership with the Kurdish government, providing strategic consultation on economic and security issues.


The strategic consultation company was initially established by former Mossad chief Danny Yatom (Labor) and Michaels, yet Yatom sold his shares upon his election to the Knesset.


But that’s not all. Leading Israeli companies in the field of security and counter-terrorism have set up a training camp under the codename Z at a secret location in a desertic region in northern Iraq, where Israeli experts provide training in live fire exercises and self-defense to Kurdish security forces.


Al-Qaeda warning prompts hasty Israeli exit


Tons of equipment, including motorcycles, tractors, sniffer dogs, systems to upgrade Kalashnikov rifles, and bulletproof vests, have been shipped to Iraq’s northern region, with most products stamped ‘Made in Israel.’


The Israeli instructors entered Iraq through Turkey using their Israeli passports, undercover as agriculture experts and infrastructure engineers.


The Kurds had insisted the cooperation projects were kept secret, fearing exposure would motivate terror groups to target their Jewish guests.


Recent warnings that al-Qaeda may plan an attack on Kurdish training camps, prompted a hasty exit of all Israeli trainers from Iraq’s northern Kurdish regions.


The Defense Ministry said in response to the report that, “We haven’t allowed Israelis to work in Iraq, and each activity, if performed, was a private initiative, without our authorization, and is under the responsibility of the employers and the employees involved."


"The Defense Ministry renews its warning to Israeli citizens who choose to ignore our guidance and travel to banned destinations."


MK denies connection to strategic firm


Motorola Inc. said it is a U.S. company that operates in over 70 countries throughout the world, including in Iraq where it helped set up a cellular phone network and provided communications systems and equipment to Iraqi security forces.


“Motorola’s global operations are in full accordance with U.S. laws, and the laws of local governments,” a Motorola official said.


Magalcom sufficed with the following statement: “Being a public company traded on the NASDAQ and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Magalcom reports on its activities as required by law. The company is not in the habit of disclosing information about its customers beyond what appears in our reports.”


MK Yatom said he has had no contact with the strategic consultation company since being elected to the Knesset.


“I haven’t promoted it and insisted on not receiving updates about its activities,” he said.  


Tsadouk Yakhiskeli and Itamar Eichner contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 12.01.05, 09:35
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