Qasem Suleimani is a 'revered' figure in Iran — and his death will force the country to respond: Fareed Zakaria
Fareed Zakaria on CNN/Screenshot

On Thursday's edition of CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," commentator Fareed Zakaria impressed upon viewers just how serious it was that Iranian military leader Qasem Suleimani had been killed.

"Suleimani is — it's difficult to convey how revered he is in Iran," said Zakaria. "Imagine the French foreign legion, at the height of the French empire. This guy is regarded in Iran as a completely heroic figure, personally very brave."

"I was wondering, earlier ... I was trying to think of somebody, and I was thinking of De Gaulle, although he became the leader of the country," suggested Cooper.

"Put it this way. Other than the Supreme Leader Khamenei and maybe the president, he looms larger in Iran than almost any other figure," said Zakaria. "He is regarded as personally incredibly brave. The troops love him, and he has been the kind of mastermind of Iran's policies in Syria, in Iraq. So when General Petraeus was fighting the Iraq war, the surge, I remember him telling me that Suleimani was his principle antagonist. That's the guy the American generals were bumping up against. Stan McChrystal had to decide at one point whether or not to attack a convoy that had him in it. It was a big decision because potentially eliminating Suleimani would have huge blowback. So if in fact this has happened, I think the Iranians will have to respond, and will respond in some way."

"To whom?" asked Cooper.

"To the United States," said Zakaria. "I think they would view it presumably this is in some way an American-directed attack."

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