Trump Backs Away from Threat to Attack Iran Cultural Sites

Trump Oval Office (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
Alex Brandon / Associated Press

President Donald Trump backed down Tuesday from his threat to attack cultural sites in Iran if the regime retaliates against the U.S. airstrike that killed General Qasim Soleimani in Iraq last week.

Trump made his remarks at a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Oval Office.

On Saturday, President Trump warned Iran that the U.S. had “targeted 52 sites,” one for each American taken hostage by Iran during the 1979 invasion of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. He did not identify the targets, but said that some of them were “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”

Critics claimed that the president was threatening to violate international law and commit a “war crime” by attacking cultural sites or antiquities.

But President Trump doubled down on Sunday, telling reporters on Air Force One, “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.”

The Pentagon and State Department insisted that any U.S. action would conform to international law, and the New York Times reported that administration officials said that none of the targets included internationally certified cultural sites, of which there are only about two dozen in Iran.

However, Trump’s threat continued to draw criticism. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that Trump’s threat was “not appropriate.”

At the Oval Office press conference Tuesday, Trump said: “They’re allowed to kill our people, they’re allowed to main 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. And you know what? If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law.”

The president continued: “But think of it: they kill our people, they blow up our people, then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I’m OK with it. It’s OK with me. I will say this: if Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences. And very strongly.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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