Former CIA head John Brennan blasted the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, calling the assassination “highly reckless,” then ended up in a Twitter war with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over his comments.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was slain Friday when a gunman ambushed him in his car near Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed revenge on Saturday, and pledged to continue the work of the man some called Iran’s Oppenheimer.
“This was a criminal act & highly reckless,” tweeted Brennan, who ran the CIA under President Obama from 2013-2017. “It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict. Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani blamed Israel for the attack.
Brennan said he didn’t know whether a foreign government authorized or carried out the slaying, but said, “Such an act of state-sponsored terrorism would be a flagrant violation of international law & encourage more governments to carry out lethal attacks against foreign officials.”
He said that assassinations are “far different than strikes against terrorist leaders & operatives of groups like al-Qaida & Islamic State, which are not sovereign states. As illegitimate combatants under international law, they can be targeted in order to stop deadly terrorist attacks.”
Cruz criticized Brennan for commenting, tweeting that it was “bizarre to see a former head of the CIA consistently side with Iranian zealots who chant “Death to America.” And reflexively condemn Israel.” He also tried to tie Brennan’s comments to President-elect Biden.
“It is typical for you to mischaracterize my comment,” Brennan responded, saying Cruz has a “lawless attitude & simple-minded approach to serious national security matters.”
Brennan slapped down accusations from Cruz that he should not be making public statements, claiming that as a private citizen, his comments are freedom of speech. “My commitment to Israel’s security & my efforts to counter Iran’s malign activities are well documented throughout my 33 years of national security work serving Republican & Democratic Administrations. Aside from his tiresome rhetoric, what has Senator Cruz ever done?”