As the Saudi Embassy in Tehran burned Saturday, the French Ambassador to the United States tweeted that Iranians were "obliged to react" to the Saudi's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric earlier in the day.
The ambassador later deleted the tweet.
Using what he describes as a personal Twitter account, French Ambassador Gerard Araud responded Saturday to a critic who said the burning and storming of the embassy Saturday undermined arguments that the Iranian government behaves rationally.
"I don't see why," Araud responded. "Iran was obliged to react. Burning an embassy is spectacular but not war."
Araud may have meant spectacular to mean "striking," without the positive connotation Americans often attach to the word. But his response nevertheless seemed to justify the attack on the Saudi embassy.
That's a surprisingly undiplomatic argument from an ambassador to a country where the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 are notorious events.
The attack on the Saudi Embassy came after the Saudis executed 47 people Saturday who it claimed were linked to terrorism, including Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite cleric who participated in anti-government protests in 2011.
The death angered many in a Iran, a mostly Shiite country that is a staunch rival of Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally.
Araund later deleted his tweet after it drew notice online. The French Embassy in Washington did not respond to an inquiry Saturday.
French President Francois Hollande appointed Araud, a longtime French diplomat, as France's U.S. ambassador in 2014.
This article had been updated to include new developments.