Seeing what looks like big secondary explosions in Albu Kamal area tonight. Israelis seem to have mounted their most concerted strike to date, probably with scores of weapons and more than two dozen aimpoints. Missile and rocket / propellant storage caches, some empty, some not.
The excavation that is constantly undertaken by IRGC and Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria seems to have a simple purpose: create more storage options, to complicate the scale of targeting challenge and facilitate a shell game of lots of empty shelters and a few full.
My sense is that it is getting gradually harder and harder for IRGC and militias to store higher-value/scarce assets (like precision rockets and longer-ranged drones) in Anbar and Syria. They keep getting cleaned out. It is safer to hold them in depth, in Iran or in Maysan.
Movement of missile and rockets is another constant shell game: oil and water tankers, other trucks, truck containers. My sense is that warheads and body are always separated, and often moved and stored separately. Fuel locations also separate.
The Iraq-Syria border is closely watched and movement is partially channelized by various outposts, barriers, terrain, and by islands of security forces not controlled by Iran. In 1991 you could hide a LOT out there, but things have moved on. We are keeping it competitive.

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More from @Mikeknightsiraq

26 Aug 20
See my new @WashInstitute piece on the Kadhimi visit to DC, what was learned by both sides, the psychology of the Iraqi delegation, and the understated importance of the strategic dialogue process - thread to follow…
The piece begins by underlining the rather imposing list of challenges faced by Iraq’s cabinet and soldiers
In the week before the Kadhimi Ream dame, it was worth underlining to those Kadhimi might might (but who did not know him or his team) exactly how much these men and women were risking as they sought to make whatever changes they can
Read 10 tweets
19 Aug 20
Couple of thoughts from Washington DC on the first full day of the Kadhimi visit. The first is the huge scale of the visit and the preparations on both sides. The visit was a major investment for both sides, with the US providing a fantastic protocol amd security reception.
The US Secret Service have thrown a powerful but polite blanket around the delegation hotel and it is deeply impressive, comforting and shows great attention to detail. It is a major show of respect for the delegation.
The visit of PM @MAKadhimi is the highest profile of a tiny number of head of state visits to DC this year and the biggest event since Covid. The Iraq-US Strategic Dialoge sessions today make it feel like a conference or a trade exhibition, not just a leadership summit.
Read 16 tweets
9 Apr 20
Who is Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the new PM-designate in Iraq? Here's a short thread to give some context. Born in 1967 in Baghdad, studied law before being exiled in the UK/US. In 2003-2010, he managed Kanan Makiya’s Iraq Memory Foundation, which documented Baathist crimes.
Kadhimi is a writer and intellectual, first known to many people as the columnist and editor of Iraq Pulse, at Al-Monitor. His books include "The Iraq Question, Islamic Concerns"; "Ali Ibn Abi Talib: The Imam and the Man"; and "Humanitarian Concerns". See…
In 2016, Kadhimi was appointed as the head of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS), the most professional intelligence agency in Iraq, with the broadest set of relationships with global intelligence agencies, and Kadhimi practiced intensive "intelligence diplomacy".
Read 10 tweets
26 Feb 20
Something a little different from me in @politico -- a look at how regular and worsening pandemics will likely re-shape the Middle East and broader global trade. I've always kept an eye to circa-2050s futurology and the idea of a rollback of globalization…
@politico From my vantage point, Middle Eastern countries are among the most exposed and vulnerable to pandemic, combining a crossroads/land brigade position with weak, deceptive governments and generous soft-hearted peoples.
@politico A severing of international movement of people over an extended period or repetitive pandemics would have some profound effects in the Middle East. Economies and perhaps religious rituals might have to re-imagine themselves.
Read 7 tweets
5 Jan 20
I know everyone is having fun being outraged, but there would not be "cultural" targets on any US target list. Such sites are on a "no-strike list" and/or a "restricted target list" including all UNESCO sites and many others, incl mosques, schools, etc.
I did my PhD on target selection and vetting. It's a very laborious, mechanical process for fixed sites, & there is a huge constantly-refined no-strike list. Judge Advocate Generals are involved in all target lists. Dynamic targeting around restricted tgts is strictly controlled.
I would treat this the same as when POTUS has occasionally opined that we will do X, only to be told we can't / don't. In this case, I don't think he even meant material icons or whatever. I think he was talking about people.
Read 4 tweets
3 Jan 20
My new @WashInstitute piece reaches back into my notes from an April 2019 closed-door workshop we held on how Qassem Soleimani's death would affect the IRGC Qods Force & its regional efforts. Thread to follow…
@WashInstitute Soleimani has undoubted strengths - he was empowered, bold, charismatic and consistent. The over-investment of the IRGC effort in a man made him an attractive target and a hard-to-replace loss for IRGCQF.
@WashInstitute Soleimani played a variety of critical roles for IRGCQF -- too many, in fact. He was central to too many efforts, seemingly not delegating, and this overstretch and need to be present at key meetings was what got him killed in the end.
Read 8 tweets

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