The former spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council under former President Barack Obama lashed out over a recent report from a Kuwaiti newspaper about how the Obama administration prevented Israel from assassinating a man with strong ties to terrorism by warning Iran about their plans.
The New York Times’ Bret Stephens tweeted out an article from Haaretz quoting the newspaper saying that three years prior to its report, the U.S. thwarted an Israeli attempt to kill Iranian general Qassem Soleimani who is the commander of the Quds Force, a US-designated sponsor of terrorism.
Former Obama NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor jumped in at that point, writing: "Yeah WTF Ben? Immediately confirm or deny this totally unsubstantiated claim and then tell us why you don't support assassinations."
Stephens responded by writing: "Funny, I remember how Iran-Contra scandal began Tommy Vietor. Little story in obscure Lebanese magazine. Also glad to know Obama administration doesn’t support assassinations—except by SEAL team or drone strike. Because that’s totally different."
It was at this point that the back-and-forth between Stephens and Vietor got really interesting. Vietor replied: "Yeah Bret Stephens taking out Osama bin Laden is the same as assassinating an Iranian political leader."
It is worth noting that the Obama administration was credibly accused in December of enabling the Iranian backed terrorist organization Hezbollah by ending a massive federal investigation into the group.
Stephens responded: "Seriously, Tommy Vietor? Suleimani is an 'Iranian political leader'? Actually he’s head of the Quds Force, which is a US designated sponsor of terrorism. Suleimani is sanctioned by name. Here, read about it," he wrote, linking to a Treasury Department summary of the Quds Force's support of terrorism.
Vietor then seemed to almost confirm the story written by Haaretz, writing: "We were well aware of the dangers posed by QS and the IRGC. Obama sanctioned them repeatedly, among other deterrents. But an assassination of QS by Israel would be destabilizing to put it mildly."
Stephens immediately picked up on Vietor's statement, responding: "So did you alert Iran to the Israeli surveillance and potential attempt, Tommy Vietor? It sounds like you are confirming the story."
UPDATE: Vietor responded to Stephens, writing, "I didn't work in the White House three years ago, but Ben did and he already denied it. Regardless, you could've tried to confirm this without spreading the lie via Twitter. Good to see you're bringing the same intellectual rigor you apply to climate change to national security."