An "Alliance" of Violence
By Dahr Jamail
r u t h o u t | Perspective"
-- -- A disturbing
trend noticeable in Iraq for quite some time now is that each
aggressive Israeli military operation in the occupied
territories results in a corresponding increase in the number of
attacks on US forces in Iraq. One of the first instances of this
was the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in
March 2004 and the reaction it set off across Shia and Sunni,
ultimately spiraling into the siege and devastation of Fallujah.
Fallujah is but one example one may use to demonstrate how the
ongoing use of heavy handed tactics by the US-Israel alliance is
proving to be as suicidal as it is homicidal. US troops in Iraq
and Israeli civilians in their homes can bear testimony to this,
as they are the ones who bear the brunt. Not to mention the
collateral damage in Iraq.
May 17, 2004, Washington
Cofer Black, at the time Coordinator for Counterterrorism for
the US State Department, in a talk at the 2004 Policy Conference
for the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), said
that of all the nations cooperating with the US in the global
war on terror, "none [is] more stalwart than the state of
Israel." He told the audience of the powerful lobby group that
"Our two great nations will stand together to fight terror" and
deemed the US-Israel Joint Counterterrorism Group (JCG) "an
important part of our counterterrorism partnership."
May 10, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq
The first US siege of Fallujah ended in early May, 2004, and on
May 10th US forces abandoned all control of the city, handing it
back over to the Iraqis.
April 4, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq
US military directed to launch the first, and eventually failed,
revenge assault in retaliation for the four Blackwater USA
mercenaries killed on March 31st. The siege caused severe
casualties among the people of Fallujah, killing 736 people,
over 60% of whom were women, children and the elderly, according
to the director of Fallujah General Hospital.
April 2, 2004, Iraq
Speaking on al-Manar TV, Muqtada al-Sadr pledged, "From here I
announce my solidarity with the genuine unity announced by
Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah with the mujahideen
movement Hamas. Let them consider me their striking hand in Iraq
whenever the need arises. As the martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
said, Iraq and Palestine have the same destiny."
March 31, 2004, Fallujah, Iraq
Four Blackwater USA mercenaries killed in Fallujah in an attack
avenging the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Nine days after the assassination, the bodies of four
mercenaries from Blackwater USA were burned, chopped into
pieces, dragged behind vehicles bearing posters of Sheikh Yassin,
and finally put on display by being hung from a bridge.
Pamphlets were distributed at the scene which declared the
attack against the four men as having been carried out in the
name of Yassin. It was also reported by several Arab media
outlets at the time that a group known as the "Phalange of
Sheikh Yassin" claimed responsibility for the attack, and that
the deaths of the four men were meant as a "gift to the
March 28, 2004, Baghdad, Iraq
The head of the CPA, Paul Bremer, ordered the closing of the al-Hawza
newspaper, the mouthpiece of Muqtada al-Sadr. One of Sadr's
spokespeople, Sheikh Mahmud Sudani, told reporters at the time
that al-Hawza had attracted censure because of its strong
critique of the killing of Sheikh Yassin by Israeli forces. The
closing of this paper was a primary factor that led to the first
violent uprising called by Sadr against the occupiers.
March 26, 2004, Iraq
Four days after the assassination of Yassin, thousands of
followers of the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, carrying portraits
both of Yassin and Sadr, demonstrated after Friday prayers in
protest of Israel's action by burning Israeli flags, chanting
"No, no to Israel" and "No, no to occupation." In Najaf, an Imam
with the extremely powerful political party the Supreme Council
for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) called for demonstrations
outside the revered Imam Ali mosque. Similar demonstrations were
also held as far north as the city of Mosul.
The demonstration began promptly after it was ordered, with
protesters shouting, "Death to Israel, death to America." Other
demonstrations continued across Iraq daily for weeks after the
assassination, denouncing Israel's actions. Even US-appointed
puppets in Iraq's Interim Governing Council expressed grave
concerns that the killing of Yassin, who was highly respected
throughout the Arab world, would escalate violence in Iraq. This
concern materialized within hours, as blood began to flow
throughout central and southern Iraq.
On the same day Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who commands
more followers than any leader in Iraq, political or spiritual,
released an unusually staunch statement of criticism, referring
to the assassination of Yassin as "an ugly crime against the
Palestinian people" with an injunction, "We call upon the core
of the Arab and Islamic nations to close ranks, unite and work
hard for the liberation of the usurped land."
March 22, 2004, Gaza
While he was being wheeled out of his morning prayer session in
his wheelchair on March 22, 2004, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was
assassinated by US-built Hellfire missiles fired by a US-built
helicopter piloted by members of the Israeli military. The
quadriplegic elder die along with two of his bodyguards and six
bystanders. The half-blind Hamas leader was replaced by his son
Rantissi, who was also murdered shortly after his father, on
There was a clear connection between events in Gaza and what
these generated in Iraq.
This act of state-sponsored terrorism by the Israeli government
was opposed even by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who
said, "It [Israel] is not entitled to go in for this kind of
unlawful killing and we condemn it. It is unacceptable, it is
unjustified and it is very unlikely to achieve its objectives."
Reaction from the United States? The usual feeble inauthentic
mumblings of "We condemn this attack." Once again actions spoke
far louder than words when the US vetoed a UN resolution
condemning Yassin's assassination.
Cofer Black later became Vice President of Blackwater USA, the
erstwhile employer of the four mercenaries killed in Fallujah.
The ongoing alliance of unbridled and unbalanced military aid
flowing into Israel from the US has gone unchallenged for years.
"Since 1976, Israel has been the largest annual recipient of US
foreign assistance, and is the largest cumulative recipient
since World War II," according to an Issue Brief for Congress
from 2002. This US military support to Israel has caused,
especially in Iraq, an incredible backlash against US troops and
contractors. This is not helped by the fact that much of this
aid comes in the form of weapons. Israel is one of the largest
importers of weapons from the US, and in the last decade alone,
Israel purchased $7.2 billion in weapons and other military
equipment. As a result, Israel is now the proud owner of the
largest fleet of F-16 fighter jets outside of the United States.
I found it to be common knowledge in Iraq that, during the last
six years of the Clinton presidency, the US gave Israel free
weapons and ammunition, such as M-16 rifles, grenade launchers,
.50 caliber machine guns and the ammunition for all of them.
The reputation of the US in the region has been further
demolished both by the failed occupation of Iraq and by its
perpetual support for Israeli policies, generally viewed with
contempt throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The ongoing
violations of international law by both countries don't exactly
assist matters either.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had given the "green light" for
the Yassin operation, monitored its progress in real-time video
transmitted from the Israeli military helicopters. His ecstasy
was accompanied by complete dismissal of all international
Ask any US military commanders how they feel about the deaths of
US soldiers in Iraq generated by revenge attacks in reaction to
Israeli military policy against Palestinians. The consensus is
an overwhelming thumbs down regarding the effectiveness of the
One could ask the families of the four Blackwater USA
mercenaries who were killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, as
well. The four men were killed in a revenge attack that had
twofold causes - reports had been coming out of Fallujah for
months about assassinations, rape and thefts carried out by
"plain clothed" men working for the US military. But more
pertinent to this particular attack is the date on which it
I remember seeing photos of Sheikh Yassin in several areas of
Baghdad and Abu Ghraib while both entering and exiting Fallujah
on April 9 and 10, during the US attack on the city. The photos
of the slain Hamas leader were pasted on the sides of cars,
trucks, roadside food stalls and even some houses.
It would appear that Cofer Black had left Israeli Prime Minister
Sharon out of the cooperation loop of his counterterrorism
strategy, as the Israeli military was being instructed by Sharon
to carry out operations that engendered severe repercussions in
Iraq and took the form, and continue to take the form, of dead
Not so coincidentally, less than a year after the first siege of
Fallujah, on February 4, 2005, Cofer Black was named
Vice-Chairman of Blackwater USA. The press release proudly
announced his arrival in the company's leadership, asserting
that during his time in the State Department Black's
responsibilities included "coordinating US Government efforts to
improve counterterrorism cooperation with foreign governments,
including the policy and planning of the Department's
Antiterrorism Training Assistance Program."
Is it perhaps possible that despite a 28-year career in the
Directorate of Operations at the CIA, Black was unaware of
Sharon's plans to murder Yassin, or was unable to stop it, or
most likely, approved of this methodology?
The latter possibility seems most likely when we consider the
instances of direct Israeli involvement with US policy on the
ground in Iraq that have long since come to light.
"One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help
in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America's
closest ally in the Middle East," wrote Seymor Hersh in the New
Yorker in December, 2003, "According to American and Israeli
military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and
intelligence units have been working closely with their American
counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg,
North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for
operations in Iraq." Israeli commandos are expected to serve as
ad-hoc advisers - again, in secret - when full-field operations
begin. Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would comment.
"No one wants to talk about this," an Israeli official told me.
"It's incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest
level that it is in their interests to keep a low profile on
US-Israeli cooperation" on Iraq.)" Hersh also told the BBC that
his sources had confirmed the presence of Israeli intelligence
personnel operating inside Iraq.
During that same month, it was reported that Israeli
counter-insurgency specialists were sent to Fort Bragg to teach
American special forces how to control an unruly Iraqi
population. Also during December 2003, it was reported that
"Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in
aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the
use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US
intelligence and military sources said on Monday," and "The
Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists
to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces,
and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants"
have also visited Iraq. US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have
already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the
occupied territories, sealing off centers of resistance with
razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been
launched against US troops."
Iraqis are all too aware of this, and I even saw this played out
on the ground in Samarra as far back as December 2003. I
interviewed a family whose home was demolished by military
bulldozers after a roadside bomb detonated near it hit a passing
US patrol. This, coupled with collective punishment of the city
by cuts in electricity, water and medical aid, had everyone
infuriated, and continues to do so today as these policies gain
in scale, frequency and intensity.
These collective punishment tactics have been imposed, to one
degree or another, in other cities in Iraq, such as Fallujah,
Abu Hishma, Siniyah, Ramadi, areas of Baghdad, Balad and Baquba,
to name just a few. Iraqis see the collective punishment meted
out by Israeli military forces in Palestinian neighborhoods in
the occupied territories via Arab satellite television networks,
and are horrified to witness the very same tactics being applied
on their soil.
Another destructive link highlighting the intertwined policies
of the two countries is Abu Ghraib. In July 2004, after the
torture scandal broke, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the US
officer at the heart of the Abu Ghraib scandal, told BBC she had
evidence that Israelis helped interrogate Iraqis at another
detention facility in Iraq. Karpinski told the BBC she'd met a
man who told her he was from Israel while she was visiting an
intelligence center with a senior US general. "I saw an
individual there that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet
before, and I asked him what did he do there, was he an
interpreter - he was clearly from the Middle East," she said.
"He said, 'Well, I do some of the interrogation here. I speak
Arabic but I'm not an Arab; I'm from Israel.'"
I've spoken with several Iraqis who had been tortured in various
military detention facilities throughout Iraq. Several of them
testified to being interrogated by Israeli Mossad (an Israeli
Another event that sent shock-waves throughout Iraq was the news
from December 2004 that detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were
tortured and, according to FBI agents, one detainee was wrapped
in an Israeli flag and subjected to extremely loud music in
order to shake his resistance to his interrogation.
It is clear that the longer the two countries continue with the
use of their brute military power as the prime strategy in their
war on terrorism, the greater grows the threat to the civilians
they claim to protect.
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8
months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US
war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on
Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in
New York City in January 2006. He writes regularly for TruthOut,
Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch, and maintains
his own web site,