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ALLEGED ALLIANCES

Magazine says Israel is training Iraqi Kurdish commandos, spying on Iran

NEW YORK -- Israel has operatives training commando units in Kurdish areas of US-occupied Iraq, an alignment with the Kurds that gives Israel "eyes and ears" in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, The New Yorker magazine reported yesterday.

The article by the award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, who earlier this year exposed the extent of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, quoted a CIA official as saying the Israeli presence is widely known in the US intelligence community.

The report quoted a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington as saying, "The story is simply untrue."

The report, quoting current and former intelligence officials in the United States, the Middle East, and Europe, said one of Israel's main objectives is to increase Kurdish military strength to balance that of the Shi'ite militias.

"Look, Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way as balance against Saddam" Hussein, the magazine quotes a former Israeli intelligence official as saying. "By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq, and Syria."

The report also said Israeli operatives had crossed into Iran with Kurdish commandos to install devices to spy on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities.

Jalal Talabani, a top Iraqi Kurdish leader, denied the report as he arrived in Ankara last night for talks with Turkish leaders.

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