The government of Iraq’s Kurdish region fired back on Saturday over allegations by Iranian diplomats and officials that Kurdistan was playing host to Israeli intelligence.
Kurdish authorities described the claims, made in previous weeks, as “untrue”, after Iran’s consul in regional capital Arbil said Israeli spies were using Kurdistan as a base to work against neighbouring Iran.
The statement continued: “It is untrue.”
On May 5, Tehran’s consul in Arbil, Azim Hosseini, said Iran’s security agencies had found evidence that “Israelis are in Kurdistan, and they are working against Iran.”
And on April 21, Iranian MP Esmaeel Kosari told Al-Alam, an Iran-based Arabic-language news channel, that Kurdistan and Azerbaijan “should know that the presence of the Zionist regime on their soil will be harmful to them.”
Iraq has no relations with Israel, and the country was an implacable foe of the Jewish state under the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown by the US-led invasion in 2003.
Kurdistan does have a warmer history with Israel, however. Many of the current crop of Kurdish leaders have visited the Jewish state in past decades.
Jews lived in Kurdistan for centuries, working as traders, farmers and artisans.
But the creation of Israel and the rise of Arab nationalism in the mid-20th century dramatically altered the situation, spurring most of Kurdistan’s Jews to leave.