President Trump on Sunday evening doubled down on his threat to target dozens of Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the targeted killing of one of its top generals, The New York Times reported.
Trump reportedly reiterated his controversial threat while aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida.
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to warn Iran that a strike on “any Americans” or “American assets” would result in the US hitting 52 targets — including “Iranian culture” sites, an action that could amount to a war crime if carried out.
“Iran has been nothing but problems for many years,” Trump tweeted after spending a day at his golf club. “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!”
According to the Times:
Mr. Trump reiterated to reporters traveling with him the spirit of a Twitter post on Saturday, when he said that the United States government had identified 52 sites for retaliation against Iran if there were a response to Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s death. Some, he tweeted, were of “cultural” significance.
Such a move could be considered a war crime under international laws, but Mr. Trump said Sunday that he was undeterred.
“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,” the president said according to the Times. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
Trump’s remarks came just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walked back the president’s tweets and said that whatever was done in any military engagement with Iran would be within the bounds of United States and International law.
“ISIS targets cultural sites. The Taliban destroys cultural sites. The United States of America should not join this list,” tweeted Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia under the Obama administration. “Please @DeptofDefense @StateDept, roll back this horrific statement by @realDonaldTrump & make clear that we will not target Iranian cultural sites.”
“Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It’s a war crime. Trump is stumbling into a war of choice,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “A war entirely of his making. A war that will get thousands of Americans killed. Congress must stop him.”