US Seeks Out Advice on How to Colonize from Israel

M. Junaid Alam junaidalam at
Fri Nov 21 23:46:11 MST 2003

This is the kind of synchronization I was talking about before the war 
even started: I predict in less than 5 years US troops will be roaming 
Gaza and Israeli ones fighting in Baghdad. Anything less just wouldn't 
be poetic.
LA Times,1,7715171.story?coll=la-home-headlines

U.S. Seeks Advice From Israel on Iraq
As the occupation grows bloodier, officials draw on an ally's experience 
with insurgents.

By Esther Schrader and Josh Meyer , Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — Facing a bloody insurgency by guerrillas who label it an 
"occupier," the U.S. military has quietly turned to an ally experienced 
with occupation and uprisings: Israel.

In the last six months, U.S. Army commanders, Pentagon officials and 
military trainers have sought advice from Israeli intelligence and 
security officials on everything from how to set up roadblocks to the 
best way to bomb suspected guerrilla hide-outs in an urban area.

"Those who have to deal with like problems tend to share information as 
best they can," Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of Defense for 
intelligence, said Friday at a defense writers breakfast here.

The contacts between the two governments on military tactics and 
strategies in Iraq are mostly classified, and officials are reluctant to 
give the impression that the U.S. is brainstorming with Israel on the 
best way to occupy Iraq. Cambone said there is no formal dialogue 
between the two allies on Iraq, but they are working together.

Indeed, the U.S. is loath to draw any comparison between what it says is 
its liberation of Iraq and what the international community has 
condemned as Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But Israeli and American officials confirm that with extremists carrying 
out suicide bombings and firing rocket-propelled grenades and missiles 
on U.S. forces in Iraq, the Pentagon is increasingly seeking advice from 
the Israeli military on how to defeat the sort of insurgency that Israel 
has long experience confronting.

The Israelis "certainly have a wealth of experience from a military 
standpoint in dealing with domestic terror, urban terror, military 
operations in urban terrain, and there is a great deal of intelligence 
and knowledge sharing going on right now, all of which makes sense," a 
senior U.S. Army official said on condition of anonymity. "We are 
certainly tapping into their knowledge base to find out what you do in 
these kinds of situations."

Many of the tactics recently adopted by the U.S. in Iraq — increased use 
of airpower, aerial surveillance by unmanned aircraft of suspected 
sites, increased use of pinpoint search and seizure operations, the 
leveling of buildings used by suspected insurgents — bear striking 
similarities to those regularly employed by Israel.

Two Israeli officials — one from the Jerusalem police force and a second 
from the Israel Defense Forces — confirmed on condition of anonymity 
that U.S. officials had visited Israel to gain insight into police and 
military tactics. They also said Israeli officials have visited 
Washington to discuss the issues.

U.S. officials were particularly interested in the "balancing act" that 
Israeli officials say they have tried to pursue between fighting armed 
groups and trying to spare civilians during decades of patrolling the 
occupied territories.

"There are routine channels that have been there for years, and those 
channels have been energized," an Israeli official said of the 
communications. "The American military has been very interested in our 
lessons ... in how do you do surgical strikes in an urban zone, how do 
you hit the bad guy with minimum collateral damage."

Some U.S. officials acknowledge that they blanch at the idea of the 
Pentagon adopting tactics from Israel, a nation regularly criticized for 
security tactics it employs to battle armed groups it has never managed 
to quell. And even Israeli officials acknowledge that they are somewhat 
reluctant to give advice.

"After all," one Israeli official said, "we've made plenty of mistakes 

Indeed, criticism of the Israeli army's tactics against Palestinians has 
been mounting within Israel. The current chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, 
along with a group of retired heads of the Shin Bet internal security 
service and even some active-duty soldiers say the methods have been 
unduly harsh and threaten to destroy Israeli and Palestinian society if 
no solution is found to the conflict.

But such concerns have not slowed the flow of information between 
Washington and Jerusalem.

When Iraqi insurgents began firing from vehicles on U.S. troops at 
checkpoints, U.S. officials were prompted to reinforce their ties to the 
Israeli military and glean tips on how to prevent such attacks, Israeli 
officials said.

Now, in frequent meetings with their American counterparts, Israeli army 
officials share ideas on how to protect soldiers from attacks and booby 
traps, Israeli officials said.

U.S. military officials also have reviewed a common Israeli tactic of 
conducting house-by-house searches for armed fighters by knocking down 
interior walls with a portable battering ram. The tactic eliminates the 
need to pass through doors and windows — one of the most dangerous 
aspects of urban combat, because of possible booby traps.

In the last week, U.S. soldiers began leveling houses and buildings used 
by suspected guerrillas, a tactic long employed by the Israeli military 
in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where they use bulldozers to knock 
down the homes of militants or their families.

"The Americans learned a lot from the Israelis' use of them [bulldozers] 
in urban combat," a former Israeli official said. "Israelis learned that 
if you have fighting in an urban area, you just take down the house."

This spring, U.S. soldiers, anticipating that they could be fighting on 
the streets of Iraqi cities, traveled to Israel to train in a mock Arab 
town that the Israeli army uses to simulate the urban battlefields of 
the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. and Israeli officials said.

That training was an extension of the growing use of Israeli military 
ranges by the U.S. over the last decade. During that time, said Lenny 
Ben-David, a former Israeli deputy chief of mission at the embassy in 
Washington, Israeli military ranges have been increasingly used by 
American helicopter pilots for training, because they could not fly at 
night in places like Germany.

"There are bases in Israel that for the last couple of years would be 
turned over to a foreign army for a few days, a week or so. The Israelis 
would be hosts. The U.S. is one of them," said Ben-David, now a private 
security consultant. "They could use equipment, they could use 
facilities, use the ranges. You'd get a mix of pilots and they would sit 
and talk tactics."

After years of working closely together at all levels, the Israeli and 
U.S. militaries in some respects think increasingly alike, said Shoshana 
Bryen, director of special projects at the Jewish Institute for National 
Security Affairs, a nonprofit group in Washington interested in links 
between U.S. and Israeli defense tactics and policy.

"Part of what's going on here is the culmination of years of picking 
each other's brains," Bryen said. "There is no sudden alliance, but what 
you end up with over the long term is a lot of guys from both countries 
who think and look at things the same way. After 9/11 they discovered 
they had more things to talk about."

For generations the Israeli military has enjoyed close relations with 
the Pentagon, which prides itself on its ability to learn from, not just 
preach to, the armed forces of its allies. At any time, dozens of 
Israeli officers are studying at Pentagon-run war colleges and training 

American special forces regularly train with their Israeli counterparts, 
both in the U.S. and in Israel. After the Israelis used unmanned drones 
in battlefield situations in Lebanon in 1982, the Pentagon studied the 
tactic. Some of the sensor technology that the United States military 
uses to protect the perimeters of its bases was pioneered by Israel.

Much of the information shared with the U.S. involves the defensive 
tactics and training that Israel has constantly updated for its troops 
and police in the occupied territories, where they are familiar not only 
with the most current tactics and code of ethics but the international 
laws that apply as well, the two Israeli officials said.

This month, for example, Lt. Col. Amos Guiora, the commandant of the 
Israeli army's School of Military Law, was in Washington to demonstrate 
some new software developed by the Israelis to train commanders how to 
conduct themselves in the occupied territories. During his visit, he 
showed the software to a group of American officials, he said.

"I'll say only this," he said. "They saw it, and they were impressed."

Israel's defense minister typically visits the Pentagon three to four 
times a year. The current defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, met Nov. 10 
with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Officials privy to the 
meeting said the subject of Iraq came up, but declined to elaborate.

The two nations also compare notes on battle operations and equipment, 
particularly if something goes wrong.

"After some incidents, if there is a failure in the system — an F-16 
goes down — there is discussion, cooperation among the armies that use 
these and the United States," Ben-David said.

"It used to be that generals and admirals would come by in almost 
state-like visits," said Ben-David, who in his consulting works with 
Israeli and U.S. officials. "But the relationship is such that you now 
get line-type soldiers coming here to meet with their counterparts."

Times staff writer Laura King in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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