Washington's future in Iraq could well be called into question. And President Trump's strategy for the region will be tested like never before
The situation in the Middle East was already volatile given the conflicts between the neighbours. Now, the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by the United States (US) may dramatically escalate the situation even further, report several international media.
Iran has already promised harsh revenge after the killing of Soleimani, which makes the 5,000 US troops in Iraq an obvious potential target.
"Retaliation is to be expected. A chain of action and reprisal could ensure bringing the two countries [Iran and the US] closer to a direct confrontation," reports BBC. No wonder the initial impact is to see a surge in oil prices, the BBC report further reads.
Washington's future in Iraq could well be called into question. And President Trump's strategy for the region - if there is one - will be tested like never before.
Foreign Policy analysts have also expressed their opinions regarding the incident and what may come next.
Tim Lister, a CNN analyst fears that the US drone strike against a top Iranian commander like Qasem Soleimani may threaten spiral of violence in the Middle East.
"The killing of one of the most powerful men in Iran is a dramatic escalation of an already dangerous situation in the Middle East, threatening to trigger violence from the Gulf to the shores of the Mediterranean," Tim writes in his analysis piece.
The targeted US drone strike also killed one of the most prominent leaders of the Iraqi Shia militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Al-Muhandis was the leader of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group that Washington blames for a recent surge in rocket attacks against US forces in Iraq.
Hundreds of the group's supporters attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad this week following US airstrikes against five of Kataib Hezbollah's units in Iraq and Syria last Friday.
The latest crisis has been brewing for weeks amid an uptick in rocket attacks by Shia militia against Iraqi bases where US forces are present – attacks of growing sophistication and accuracy – in which a US civilian contractor has been killed, reports CNN.
But Charles Lister, a leading analyst of Iranian policy in the region, says this strike far eclipses the deaths of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden or ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in terms of strategic significance and implications.
"The US and Iran have been engaged in a dangerous tit-for-tat for months now, but this is a massive walk-up the escalation ladder," Charles told CNN.
Ben Friedman, policy director of think tank Defense Priorities in Washington believes that the strike was a "remarkably reckless act, because the forces the US has in the region are not sufficient to deal with the potential fallout."
Ali Soufan, a former FBI officer with extensive experience in the Middle East, writes in the Combating Terrorism Center's Sentinel in 2018 that "without question, Soleimani is the most powerful general in the Middle East today; he is also one of Iran's most popular living people."
In explaining the decision to kill Soleimani, the Pentagon focused not just on his past actions but also insisted that the strike was meant as a deterrent. The general, the Pentagon statement reads, was "actively developing plans to attack US diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region".
What happens next is the big question now. While US President Donald Trump may hope that he has cowed Iran in one dramatic action, it is almost unthinkable that there will not be a robust Iranian response, even if it is not immediate.
While the attack has proven to the increasingly uneasy allies of the US in the region like Israel and Saudi Arabia that US deterrence still has teeth, the consequences might not be worth it.
"Donald Trump's assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt him," writes Mohammad Ali Shabani, an Iranian foreign policy analyst on The Guardian.
The US and its allies will be looking to their defences. Washington has already despatched a small number of reinforcements to its embassy in Baghdad. It will have plans to increase its military footprint in the region quickly if needed.
But it is equally possible that Iran's response will be in some sense asymmetric - in other words not just a strike for a strike. It may seek to play on the widespread support it has in the region - through the very proxies that Soleimani built up and funded.
It could, for example, renew the siege on the US embassy in Baghdad, putting the Iraqi government in a difficult position, and call into question the US deployment there. It could prompt demonstrations elsewhere as cover for other attacks.