(IPS) LONDON --
U.S. army in Iraq is enlisting Israeli experts to train its forces on assassinating resistance leaders, a move which bears an uncomfortable similarity to the Vietnam War-era "Operation Phoenix."
Citing military and intelligence sources, the UK/Guardian said U.S. forces are now being trained by Israeli warfare specialists in the North Carolina-based Fort Bragg, home to U.S. special forces.
It maintained that "U.S. special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria" to kill would-be resistance fighters before they cross the border.
The mass-circulation British daily also asserted that a group focused on the "neutralization" of Iraqi resistance leaders was being set up in Iraq.
It further underlined that Israeli military "consultants" have visited the oil-rich occupied Arab country.
"Some Israelis went to Iraq as well, not to do training, but for providing consultations," it quoted a well-informed intelligence source in Washington as saying, noting the visit was confirmed by another U.S. source in contact with American officials in Iraq.
U.S. Brigadier General Michael Vane admitted in a letter to Army magazine in July that U.S. forces had visited Israel to make the best of the Israeli expertise in this respect, it said.
"We recently traveled to Israel to glean lessons learned from their 'counter-terrorist' operations in urban areas," wrote General Vane, deputy chief of staff at the army's training and doctrine command.
American occupation forces have already begun to use Israeli-styled tactics in Iraq such as sealing off entire Iraqi villages with razor wire.
The New Yorker magazine further revealed that the new U.S. assassination squad in Iraq is made up of elite troops and called Task Force 121.
A former senior U.S. intelligence officer hit out at the growing U.S.-Israeli cooperation, voicing concern that America is seen as another "Sharon" in the eyes of the Arab world, in reference to hawkish Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon.
"This is basically an assassination program. That is what is being conceptualized here. This is a hunter-killer team," he told the Guardian.
The ex-intelligence official feared that the tactics used by the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq were a mirror image of those used by the Israeli occupation troops in the occupied Palestinian territories, which would add more fuel to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.
"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are -- we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams," he added.
New Yorker author Seymour Hirsch noted in the Dec. 15 article that the operation bears an uncomfortable similarity to the Vietnam War-era "Operation Phoenix"
... Many of them fear that the proposed operation -- called "preemptive manhunting" by one Pentagon adviser -- has the potential to turn into another Phoenix Program. Phoenix was the code name for a counter-insurgency program that the U.S. adopted during the Vietnam War, in which Special Forces teams were sent out to capture or assassinate Vietnamese believed to be working with or sympathetic to the Vietcong. In choosing targets, the Americans relied on information supplied by South Vietnamese Army officers and village chiefs. The operation got out of control. According to official South Vietnamese statistics, Phoenix claimed nearly 41,000 victims between 1968 and 1972; the U.S. counted more than twenty thousand in the same time span. Some of those assassinated had nothing to do with the war against America but were targeted because of private grievances. William E. Colby, the CIA officer who took charge of the Phoenix Program in 1968 (he eventually became CIA director), later acknowledged to Congress that "a lot of things were done that should not have been done."
The report is the latest in a series that revealed an increasingly growing Israeli involvement in U.S.-occupied Iraq.
An Israeli center closely linked to the Mossad was opened last August in Baghdad, in a provocative move seen by Iraqi academics as the beginning of an Israeli scheme to infiltrate the Iraqi society.
Reports further said that Israeli companies and intelligence elements were being housed in the landmark Baghdad Hotel rented by the CIA.
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