Dr. Michael Knights has seen the ‘New Iraq’ from the inside and from the bottom up as a researcher in Iraq’s provinces and as an embedded advisor to Iraq’s security forces. To illustrate the realities of a post-US Iraq at the local level, he will discuss impressions gained during extended research visits in Basrah province. Subjects for discussion include evolving civil-military relations; fiscal and administration decentralization; and the relative influence of external forces such as Iran, the United States and the oil and private security industries.


Dr. Michael Knights is a Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute, leading the Iraq programme and writing on Gulf security.  He has worked on Iraq and Gulf security since the mid-1990s, writing for a range of publishers such as Jane’s, Oxford Analytica, MENAS Associates and other risk analysis consultancies. He had been a member of Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 project since 1997. Dr. Knights earned a First Class undergraduate degree and also his doctorate at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, with a dissertation on U.S. military operations in Iraq between 1992 and 2002. This interview-led research produced the first unclassified highly-detailed account of the militarized containment of Iraq in the 1990s. Since 2006, Dr. Knights has also worked as the Vice President of Analysis and Assessments (A2) at Olive Group. One of the larger private security companies operating in Iraq. He has supported the entry into Iraq of more than half of the top-ten oil majors plus a range of major construction and engineering firms. Dr. Knights also supports US government policy-making on Iraq via various working groups. He has worked extensively within Iraq, largely in the provinces and outside US military facilities. Dr Knight’s past publications include the compendium Operation Iraqi Freedom and the New Iraq: Insights and Forecasts (The Washington Institute, 2004); Cradle of Conflict: Iraq and the Birth of the Modern U.S. Military (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2005); Calm Before the Storm: The British Experience in Iraq (The Washington Institute, 2006); Provincial Politics in Iraq (The Washington Institute, 2008); Kirkuk in Transition (The Washington Institute, 2010); Iran’s Influence in Iraq: Countering Tehran’s Whole of Government Approach (The Washington Institute, 2011); and The Iraqi Security Forces: Local Context and U.S. Assistance (Washington Institute, 2011). He is writing a chapter on research design and fieldwork methodology in Iraq for a new Routledge edited volume and aims to release a number of academic pieces this year in the field of terrorism studies research, dealing with Iranian-backed militant groups in Iraq.