PKK fighters training in Northern Iraq, 10 km from the border with Turkey [AFP]

Amid the tension between Turkey and Iraq over the cross-border attacks by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), rumours of an Israeli presence in northern Iraq have resurfaced.

Recent reports have appeared in the Turkish media of Israeli Kurds buying land in the volatile city of Kirkuk to boost the Kurdish population ahead of a possible census that could dictate who controls the city.

The reports of Israelis in Iraq may sound like wild conspiracy but three years ago the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote an article claiming that Israeli intelligence and military operatives were providing training for Kurdish commando units in northern Iraq. Hersh has been right on Iraq on other stories - he revealed the abuses taking place in the Abu Ghraib prison.

Hersh's claim about the Israelis seemed to be corroborated when a BBC report last year showed what it said were Israeli experts in northern Iraq drilling Kurdish militias in shooting techniques.

Kurdish officials refused to comment on the reports and Israel denied that it knew of any involvement.

Whether or not such reports and rumours are true, their emergence will have been enough to increase tension between the Kurds and Iraq's Arab population, both Sunnis and Shia, reinforcing fears that the Kurds are pursuing a separatist agenda.

Iraq's neighbours, too, will likely be deeply disturbed by talk of any Israeli-Kurdish alliance. By supporting the Kurds, Israel risks alienating its Turkish ally. For their part, Iran and Syria have long accused the Kurds of allowing the Israelis to operate on Iraqi territory.

Inside Iraq investigates the plausibility of such reports. Is there any historical precedent of an Israeli-Kurdish collaboration? And what interests and implications might be at play here?

Our guests this week are: Raanan Gissin, a strategic analyst in Middle Eastern affairs, Serhat Erkmen, a research fellow at the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies, and Fereydun Hilmi, a Kurdish affairs analyst.

Watch this episode of Inside Iraq here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

This episode of Inside Iraq aired from November 09, 2007

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