The Ostrovsky Files: Capture of Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Recalls Mossad Collaboration with Both Turkey, Kurds

By Ostrovsky, Victor | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

The Ostrovsky Files: Capture of Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Recalls Mossad Collaboration with Both Turkey, Kurds


Ostrovsky, Victor, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


THE OSTROVSKY FILES: Capture of Kurdish Rebel Leader Ocalan Recalls Mossad Collaboration With Both Turkey, Kurds

"I want to make very clear to all of you," wrote Mossad head Efraim Halevi in a letter to all employees of Israel's foreign intelligence agency and their families, "that we had nothing whatsoever to do with the apprehension of Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party] leader."

By this extremely unusual step, Halevi wanted to send a message to the public, without having to make direct contact with the media, to refute allegations that his organization was linked to Ocalan's kidnapping from Nairobi.

Over the years the Mossad has had so many strange bedfellows that the Israeli spy agency may have earned undisputed admission to the world's very oldest profession rather than merely coming in second along with other intelligence agencies.

Mossad supported South Africa's apartheid regime when no one else would, and provided arms and training for such murderous leaders as Idi Amin of Uganda, Papa (and Baby) Doc of Haiti, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Manuel Noriega of Panama, Nicolai Ceaucescu of Rumania, and the vicious Communist Dergue regime in Ethiopia.

In fact, because of such Mossad activities and its casual attitude toward the export of high tech weaponry, Israel sometimes finds itself on both sides of the same conflict. This has been the case in Sri Lanka, Cyprus and Bosnia. Such also has been the case with the Turks and the Kurds. This is further complicated by the fact that the divided Kurds themselves are sometimes on more than one side of an equation.

The long-standing alliance between Israel and Turkey is only slightly older than the close ties between Israel and some Kurdish factions. On Aug. 29, 1958, a secret agreement was reached between Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes calling for Israeli-Turkish collaboration against Middle East radicalism and "Soviet influence." After the Turkish military coup of 1960, which resulted in Menderes's execution, relations between the two countries grew more distant.

In 1964, prime ministers Levi Eshkol of Israel and Ismet Inonu of Turkey met in Paris to revive the "Trident Agreement" of 1958 and pledged technical and across-theboard training for intelligence and security services, placing the Mossad's Istanbul liaison station in charge.

In 1974 there were rumors of Israeli aid in the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Since 1975, the Turkish air force has acquired Israeli-made Shafrir air-to-air missiles, and a large selection of other military equipment. During the 1970s the Mossad also was keeping a close eye on the unraveling of civil order in Turkey as right-wing Islamic and nationalist groups clashed with extreme leftwingers, threatening to plunge the country into a civil war and strain Turkey's relationship with Israel.

After the military coup of 1980, however, the love affair resumed.

In fact, to maintain it, any mention of the Armenian massacre of 1915 in Turkey is banned from any Israeli government-owned media. And in 1982 Israel's Foreign Ministry protested a scheduled discussion of the Armenian genocide at an International Conference on the Holocaust and Genocide.

At the same time, the Mossad recognized the intelligence-gathering potential and destabilizing possibilities of the non-Arab Kurdish minority in the Middle East, which is split among six countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Armenia and Russia.

Iraq has the largest Kurdish population and has granted it the most autonomy, including the printing of school textbooks in Kurdish. In Turkey, however, Kurds are referred to as "mountain Turks," and movements for autonomy or independence are outlawed.

The on-and-off Kurdish rebellion in Iraq fits especially well into Israel's "bigger picture" for the region. Starting in 1958, as part of an alliance with the shah of Iran, Israel started arming and training Kurds in northern Iraq to revive their straggle against the Baghdad government. …

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