Israel has operatives training commando units in Kurdish areas of U.S.-occupied Iraq, an alignment with the Kurds that gives Israel "eyes and ears" in Iraq, Iran and Syria, The New Yorker magazine reported on Monday.
The article by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, who earlier this year exposed the extent of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, quoted a CIA official as saying the Israeli presence is widely known in the U.S. 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 Shiite militias.
"Look, Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way as balance against Saddam," the magazine quotes a former Israeli intelligence official as saying. "It's Realpolitik. 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 sensors and other sensitive devices to spy on Iran's suspected nuclear facilities.
Hersh wrote that by the end of last year, Israel concluded the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush "would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options."
But the move to align with separatist Kurds could be damaging to Israel's relations with Turkey and undermine efforts to create a stable Iraq, the report said..