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The last few days of #US military build up make a lot of sense now. The killing of #Iran Quds Force commander Suleimani cannot be overstated as an escalatory event, even if US will have intended it as ultimate show of force.
Suleimani was the most visible face of Iran’s fight against #IslamicState and US in the region. A huge loss of knowledge and expertise for IRGC and humiliating for #Khamenei after his tweet taunting #Trump. The question now must be what an Iranian response will be.
Iran can not afford not to respond to this level of attack, but does not necessarily have to respond immediately. They will understand how vulnerable Trump is going into the electoral period. US military and energy assets across #Iraq are at high risk of rocket and mortar attack.
As with this last summer’s confrontation in the #Gulf, Iran will want to raise the costs of potential escalation, but the immolation of Suleimani dramatically raises that bar. The Gulf will be another theatre for escalation.
Low likelihood at this point that Iran will seek to close #Hormuz Strait - that would require a direct strike on Iran, but the risks to shipping just went up. Expect more harassment of shipping, and US naval vessels.
#Saudi assets will be a target, #Aramco shares will probably be hit even if we see a spike in oil prices. The #Abqaiq attack in September showed Iranian reach and capability here. Oil infrastructure, airports, desalination all vulnerable.
Saudi is hosting #G20 this year and #Dubai has its Expo 2020 - neither want another round of Iran twisting screws. Expect #UAE to try and distance from this. Important to see what official #Houthi statement in #Yemen is, they have the potential to disrupt more shipping
In transit of Bab al-Mandab in #RedSea with boat-borne IEDs and missiles. Iran will probably try to widen the spread of retaliation to stretch the US. Bases in Afghanistan are within reach.
Already Iranian media is also blaming #Israel, rocket attacks from #Syria into #Golan should be expected along with more posturing from #Hizbullah in Lebanon along the border.
Netanyahu is weaker now than ever but the prospect of significant military confrontation with Iran would focus Israeli minds. Islamic Jihad in #Gaza should be watched. Their supporters with almost certainly demonstrate, with limited rocket fire on souhthefn communities likely.
Questions will be asked why Suleimani and Al-Muhandis were apparently travelling in same convoy at a time of heightened confrontation between US and Iran. A display of extraordinary sloppiness or arrogance, or both. Questions will be asked about Iraqi intelligence sharing.
US estimates that Iran-backed militias were responsible for 603 combat personnel deaths in Iraq from 03-11; militias guided and armed by #IRGC and Suleimani. Almost 1 in 6 of combat deaths. Hard to see a future where Suleimani could direct with impunity forever.
But now the question of US proportional response will be factored in. One dead contractor at K1 resulted in strikes killing 25 in Iraq and Syria and now the loss of Iran’s most valuable commander. It’s too dangerous a precedent for Iran not to mobilise a retaliation.
Expect this to hasten Iranian withdrawal from #JCPOA provisions. Next reduction in compliance was due on 6 January, could potentially push towards 20% purity for enriched uranium. #EU partners will have to offer incentives they don’t have to conciliate for this.
Civilian #US workers in Iraq should be making provisions to leave. The potential business ramifications of this are going to reverberate, whether insurance costs, transport costs, destruction, delays etc.
Qaani has a background mobilising militias across wider MENA to intervene in #Syria. His swift appointment suggests #Iran is seeking to steady and continue with the gradualist strategy favoured by Suleimani
As expected #UAE minister of state @AnwarGargash emphasises the need for careful thought, and avoidance of escalation, with what comes next with Iran. Emirates have to a lot to lose in even a limited conflict.
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