Israel has provided intelligence, including satellite imagery, in support of the U.S.-led aerial campaign against Islamic State in Iraq, according to a Reuters report.
According to the diplomat cited in the Monday report, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies–after erasing all Hebrew markings or other evidence of its Israeli origin.
The recent execution of two U.S. journalists, the rapid expansion of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and new awareness of the insurgent group’s large contingent of Western volunteers have spurred the Western powers into limited military action.
Israel and the United States have an extremely close and cooperative intelligence relationship. In addition, Israel is worried that Islamic State, already operating in nearby Syrian areas, could eventually reach its borders. Islamic State has made numerous statements reflecting its goal of “liberating” Israel.
Israeli spy satellites can overfly Iraq at angles and frequencies unavailable to U.S. satellites. Israeli intelligence has thereby provided images and information that allowed the Pentagon to “fill out its information and get a better battle damage assessments” after strikes on Islamic State targets, according to the diplomat.
Besides satellite information, Israel had also shared information about Western citizens suspected of joining the insurgents who could potentially carry out future terror attacks in their home countries. Israel is said to assemble this information from international travel databases.
“The Israelis are very good with passenger data and with analyzing social media in Arabic to get a better idea of who these people are,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
But due to the complexities of the relationships between Israel and other countries in the Middle East, Israel’s role has been kept firmly in the background. Israel is not among countries being visited by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this week as he travels to the region to build an anti-Islamic State coalition.
In fact, according to the diplomat, the Israeli-supplied intelligence reaches U.S. partner countries “with the Hebrew and other markings scrubbed out” to avoid raising anti-Israel ire from Arab countries, Turkey, and possibly even Iran, all of whom see Islamic State as a threat.
Israel’s Defence Ministry had no comment on the report, and would neither confirm nor deny involvement in any international efforts against the Islamic State.
“We don’t comment on any assistance by us, or if there is such assistance, in the fight against ISIS,” said Yaacov Havakook, spokesman for ministry.