MESOPOTAMIA NEWS REPORT : Iraqi Kurdistan government denies media claims of Israeli base near Erbil: statement

Posted on September 1, 2019  ekurd – HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) released a statement on Sunday denying claims that Israel is operating a military base in Erbil, saying that they are “an attempt to mislead.”

“Everything in these claims are baseless and without fact. It is just a worthless political excuse and their aim is to divert and change the truth for personal [political] profit,” the KRG statement said.

The statement came after some of the Iraqi media outlets ran stories alleging that Israel had a military base in Erbil.

The claims come after several weeks of speculation over whether Israel was responsible for a number of so-far unexplained explosions at facilities belonging to the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella organization for a number of largely Shia militias.

The US and others have raised concerns about the level of Iranian influence over some of the groups.

PMF leaders have blamed Israel and the United States for at least some of the attacks, but no physical evidence, such as missile remnants, have been produced. The Pentagon has denied any involvement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has done little to tamp down speculation that Israel is responsible.

Netanyahu has backed Kurdish independence from Iraq in the past, notably in the run up to the Iraqi Kurdistan’s controversial and ill-fated referendum in 2017. However, regional antipathy against Israel makes any significant, public ties with Erbil impossible.

Iraq does not diplomatically recognize Israel.

Comments earlier this year by Iraqi ambassador to the US Fareed Yasseen seen by some as supportive of establishing a relationship between Baghdad and Tel Aviv were quickly walked back by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 2017 the official representative of the Jewish community announced that they have suspended their representation at Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Religious Affairs indefinitely for “some reasons” without giving any further details.

The Jewish representation was opened in 2015 after the Kurdish parliament passed a law officially recognizing the Jewish community with full ethno-religious rights, along other minority religions.

In 2016 Iraqi Kurds held a funeral for Shimon Peres, former President and Prime Minister of Israel, in a show of respect for his support for Kurds.

There are a large number of Kurdish Jews in the Kurdistan Region who mostly live in Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaimani provinces.

Iraqi Kurdistan does have a warmer history with the Jewish state. Many of the current Kurdish leaders have visited Israel in past decades.

Israel has a longstanding relationship with the Kurdish people. In the early 1960’s, Mustafa Barzani and his Peshmerga fighters received training and support in the Jewish State.

The creation of Israel and the rise of Arab nationalism in the mid-twentieth century dramatically altered the situation, spurring most of Kurdistan’s Jews to leave.