The killing on Friday of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, signals a radical escalation in Washington’s stand-off with Iran, one some analysts warn could endanger US troops and their allies in Iraq, Syria and beyond.
Iran has vowed to avenge the death of the 62-year-old general, who was assassinated as he left Baghdad airport alongside key members of local Iran-backed militias early on Friday in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump.
General Soleimani was widely regarded as the second-most-powerful figure in Iran behind Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, who warned that "severe revenge awaits the criminals" behind the attack.
Soleimani had assembled a network of powerful and heavily armed allies stretching all the way to southern Lebanon, on Israel's doorstep. His targeted killing has caused alarm around the world, amid fears that Iranian retaliation against American interests in the region could spiral into a far larger conflict.
"We have woken up to a more dangerous world," said France's deputy foreign minister, Amélie de Montchalin. Russia, a key ally of Iran in the Middle East, blasted “an adventurist step that will increase tensions throughout the region".