Iraqi analysts say Israeli-Russian Elizabeth Tsurkov 'confession' was likely forced

Iraqi analysts say Israeli-Russian Elizabeth Tsurkov 'confession' was likely forced
3 min read
15 November, 2023
"Her confession is being politicised, contains many contradictions, and is largely questionable," one Iraqi analyst remarked to The New Arab.
The video which was aired by Al Rabiaa TV, an Iraqi television close to an Iraqi militia. [Getty]

Iraqi political commentators have quickly come out and questioned the broadcast of a video depicting Israeli-Russian academic Elizabeth Tsurkov 'confessing' of working for Israel's spy agency Mossad and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), with most arguing that she was likely under duress or forced by Iraqi militias holding her captive. 

The video, which was aired by Al Rabiaa TV, an Iraqi television close to one of the Iraqi militias, was the first evidence of Tsurkov's proof of life after her abduction in Baghdad nearly nine months ago.

In the nearly four-minute-long video, Tsurkov "confessed" in Hebrew that she worked for both Mossad and the CIA. She continues to allege that her goals were to create an intra-Shia division in Iraq by supporting Iraq's October 2019 anti-corruption protests. She also says she had travelled in 2022 to northeast Syria to build between Israel and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

She also speaks about Israel's war on Gaza, describing it as a "folly" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that Israel is targeting women and children in Gaza. She also asks the families of Israeli captives held by Hamas to protest against Netanyahu and stop the war on besieged Gaza.

The video concludes with her criticising the Israeli government for not helping get her release.

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Israeli authorities revealed in July that Tsurkov had been kidnapped, blaming pro-Iranian militants after she had gone missing in Iraq in late March.

Tsurkov was a doctoral student at Princeton University and a fellow at the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, and she visited Iraq as part of writing her doctoral research.

"I have reservations about her confessions. I do not know what her role was in supporting the October revolution and whether she was in Iraq at that time or not," Iraqi political analyst Ahmed al-Adhaz remarked to The New Arab. "I have reservations and questions on her confessions whether she was forced to speak in that way, which is full of contradictories."

"In my opinion, the video is an Iranian-US-Russian negotiation message on the captive for unknown aims because, at the end of her speech, she asks the Israeli government for her release," he added. "Her confession is politicised, contains many contradictions, and is largely questionable."  

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Shaho Qaradaghi, an Iraqi political analyst and researcher at Raman Centre for Research, in a post on X social media platform, wrote that airing the confessions of the captive researcher was "an attempt to repair the reputation of the Iraqi armed factions, portraying the matter as a victory and linking it to what is happening in Gaza".   

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early July accused Iraq's powerful Kata'ib Hezbollah of holding her, but the armed faction has implied it was not involved in her disappearance.

Tsurkov, who had likely entered Iraq on her Russian passport, had travelled to the country as part of her doctoral studies.

Later in July, the Iraqi government said it had launched an investigation concerning her disappearance but has not announced any findings since.

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The Iraqi government has yet to take a formal position on airing the video. However, an official at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in Baghdad told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, TNA's sister website in Arabic, that Tsurkov is believed to be located in areas near Baghdad and may be in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, controlled by Iraqi Kata'ib Hezbollah group. 

The official, who preferred not to disclose his identity, added that the supreme security committee formed regarding Tsurkov has not reached any results, and the prevailing belief is that she is in the headquarters of one of the influential armed factions in the country.

The Iraqi official also considered that the kidnapped Tsurkov may have become inescapably tied to the broader negotiations related to Israel's war on Gaza and the potential release of captives from various sides.