Donald Trump has defended his threat totarget Iranian cultural sites– widely seen as a war crime – if Tehran retaliates for the killing of General Qassem Suleimani.
On bellicose form, the US president also lashed out at Iraq followingits parliament’s demandfor American troops to be expelled from that country, and vowed to respond with crippling sanctions.
Trump’s comments suggest he was making no idle threat when, on Saturday night,he tweetedthat the US has “targeted 52 Iranian sites … some at a very high level & important to Iran & Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. ”
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One a day later, he sought to offer a justification. “They’re allowed to kill our people,” Trump said, according to a pool report. “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 site? It doesn’t work that way. ”
Targeting cultural sites is prohibited by international conventions signed in Geneva and at the Hague. In (**********************************************************, the United Nations security council passed unanimously a resolution condemning the destruction of heritage sites. The action previewed by Trump would almost certainly involve the deaths of civilians.
Trump’s statements come after secretary of state Mike Pompeo defended the assertion that the drone strike against Suleimani in Baghdadprevented an imminent attack on US interests. “We would have been culpably negligent had we not taken this action,” he told NBC’sMeet the Presson Sunday. When host Chuck Todd asked if retaliation against US citizens should now be expected, Pompeo admitted: “It may be that there’s a little noise here in the interim.”
US-Iran tensions are escalating followinglast Friday’s drone strike– ordered by Trump without congressional authorization – in Iraq that killed Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.
On Monday morning in Tehran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei presided over prayers for the slain general, and Suleimani’s daughter Zeinab told a huge crowd at his funeral ceremony that the US and its ally Israel faced a “dark day” for his death.
“Crazy Trump, don’t think that everything is over with my father’s martyrdom,” Zeinab Suleimani said in an address broadcast on state television. “The families of US soldiers in the Middle East will spend their days waiting for death of their children.”
Before the ceremony, mourners had packed the streets around Tehran university, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”. One man held up a placard reading “hard – revenge”.