Iran’s response holds the key as Qasem Soleimani’s killing shakes West Asia
As the United States and Iran head to a fresh round of confrontation, here is a quick snapshot of what happened on Friday morning:
What happened in West Asia?
Under direct orders from United States President Donald Trump, according to a statement by the US Department of Defence, the US killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force in a drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport.
Who was Soleimani?
Soleimani was in charge of Iranian Intelligence-gathering and covert operations. He was very close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and seen as a potential future leader of the country, according to a profile in The New York Times. He played a key role in encouraging Shiite militants in Iraq after the US attacked the country back in 2003, which expanded Tehran’s leverage in the country. As Iran’s influence in the region has grown, so did Soleimani’s.
Watch: Qasem Soleimani killed by a US air strike, all you need to know
The US has claimed that Soleimani was “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition serving members”, and approved the attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad this week. This, for Washington, appears to have been the trigger for the presidential order.
What does it mean for the region?
The US and Iran have been in a state of confrontation ever since Donald Trump’s election and his decision to walk out of the nuclear deal between the nations. Iran has responded to sanctions and what it sees as a betrayal by stepping up its offensive in the region. The attack on the embassy in Baghdad and now the killing of Soleimani, however, takes the confrontation to a possible stage of conflict. Given Soleimani’s importance, Iran is bound to respond with force, though the question remains whether it will directly hit US interests and personnel or US allies, including Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of which have independent rifts with Tehran. Most observers and intelligence analysts expect an escalation.
What it means for India?
India depends substantially on crude imports from West Asia among other regions. A spike in prices, as is expected, will have an impact on India’s macroeconomic indicators at a time when the economy has been slowing down.
India is also the top recipient of external remittances in the world. In 2017, it received $69 billion dollars worth of remittances, according to the Reserve Bank of India data. But here is the crucial point. Over 50% of these remittances come from West Asia -- Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman in particular. Within India, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu account for over 58% of the total remittances. Instability in the region is expected to affect migrant workers -- estimates suggest there are over 8 million Indian workers across West Asia -- and remittance inflows.