President Donald Trump on Tuesday backed off his threat to target and attack Iranian cultural sites, an action that could constitute a war crime under laws of armed conflict, adding that he likes “to obey the law.”
Trump originally threatened to take out Iran’s cultural sites on Saturday as part of a threat toward Tehran, which had vowed “harsh revenge” against the U.S. for killing its top military leader, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in an airstrike days earlier.
“Iran has been nothing but problems for many years,” Trump tweeted after spending a day at his golf club on Saturday. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites… some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”
On Air Force One on Sunday, Trump doubled down on his threat: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people, they’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites. It doesn’t work that way.”
In the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump expressed skepticism about the rules governing war crimes, but nevertheless said he would be “okay with” following laws that prevent him from destroying Iranian cultural sites.
“They’re allowed to kill our people they’re allowed to maim our people, they’re allowed to blow up everything that we have and there’s nothing that stops them. And we are, according to various laws, supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage,” he said.
“And you know? If that’s what the law is – I like to obey the law. But think of it, they kill our people, they blow up our people, but then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions,” Trump said.
“But I’m okay with it. It’s okay with me,” he added.
President Trump on threat to target Iranian cultural sites: "We are, according to various laws, supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage…If that is what the law is, I like to obey the law." pic.twitter.com/PqymBkNzOi
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 7, 2020