The killing of Iran's senior most military general Qasem Soleimani has thrown the West Asia region again almost on the brink of another military conflict. It has dented global markets. Even as tension in the region grows, right from China, United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union have asked for restrain. As the news of this incident spread oil prices rose by almost 4% and precious metals started zooming.
Soleimani and officials from Iran-backed militias were leaving Baghdad airport in two cars when they were hit by a US drone strike near a cargo area. The commander had reportedly flown in from Lebanon or Syria. Several missiles struck the convoy and at least seven people are believed to have died. Iran's most powerful military figure was regarded as the strategic mastermind behind its vast ambition in the Middle East and the country's real foreign minister when it came to matters of war and peace.
As commander of elite special forces, he orchestrated covert operations, involving a web of proxy militias, across the region. He also commanded political influence inside Iran and was regarded as second only to Iran's all-powerful Supreme Leader.
He was widely considered the architect of President Bashar al-Assad's war in Syria, the ongoing conflict in Iraq, the fight against Islamic State, and many battles beyond. The general with a close-cropped beard was a cult hero for his fighters and the face of evil for his foes. For years, US officials considered killing a cunning adversary who ordered attacks on their forces and taunted them with social media barbs.
At times some of their aims were aligned, including in the fight against Islamic State, but they remained sworn enemies. Iranian officials are categorical - this is an act of war to be met by "harsh retaliation". Iran has many ways and means to strike back as a long standing crisis suddenly moves to a new, dangerous situation.
West Asia experts speaking on the BBC said perhaps Iran will take some time to react as the American war machine is formidable and Iran will think twice before deciding to engage with them in another military conflict. Right now Iran is seen talking tough but it’s now up to other global super powers to ensure that the situation does no escalate beyond a limit.
Another set of experts say Oman which has been a good mediator should now take lead in resolving the conflict. Iran sits along one of the crucial sea canal from where 21% of global oil passes and any conflict in this region could perhaps even de-stabilise supply of oil to many countries.
America now says that Iran must stop its nuclear programme and must stop supporting the violent groups that have been causing violence in many parts of the world. Mediation by organisations such as EU can now perhaps be the way forward, but in any case de-escalation is absolutely essential.