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Defiant Trump doubles down on threat to Iran cultural sites

Defiant Trump doubles down on threat to Iran cultural sites

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump doubled the threat of targeting Iranian cultural sites on Sunday amid claims that any such action would be a war crime.

When his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, insisted that any military action would comply with international law, Trump said that if Iran resorted to deadly force against US targets, cultural sites would be considered fair play.

"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 site? It doesn't work that way," Trump told reporters.

"If they do anything there will be major retaliation."

His remarks on his return from a break in Florida followed a surge of criticism of Tweet on Saturday night in which he said that places that were "essential to ... Iranian culture" were on the list of 52 potential US targets.

Tehran's foreign minister had reacted to those initial comments by drawing parallels with the Islamic State group's destruction of the Middle East's cultural heritage.

And as Twitter was filled with images of revered Iranian monuments in ancient cities like Isfahan under the hashtag # IranianCulturalSites, leading U.S. Democrats said the president would be in violation of international agreements if he were to make good his threat.

"You are threatening to commit war crimes," Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the top Democrats hoping to challenge Trump in November´s election, wrote on Twitter.

"We are not at war with Iran. The American people do not want a war with Iran."

"Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It´s a war crime," added fellow Senator Chris Murphy.

Secretary of State Pompeo said in a flurry of interviews on the Sunday talkshows that the US would not hesitate to hit hard against the "kleptocratic regime" of Iran if it came under attack, but vowed that any move would be consistent with the rule of law.

Both sides have traded threats since a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday killed Qasem Soleimani — one of the most important figures in the Iranian government.

"We'll behave lawfully. We'll behave inside the system. We always have and we always will," Pompeo told the ABC network.

"The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed with a singular mission, of protecting and defending America."

His comments came after his opposite number in Tehran Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that "targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME".

"A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage: Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries," said Foreign Minister Zarif.

"Where are they now? We're still here, & standing tall."

Threat 'Un-American'
Nicholas Burns, who served as US ambassador to NATO under president George W. Bush, said the Trump administration would be guilty of hypocrisy given it was part of international efforts to deter IS from destroying countless pre-Islamic artefacts, including in the Syrian UNESCO-listed site of Palmyra.

"Donald Trump's threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites would be a war crime under UN Security Council resolution 2347 - supported by the Trump Administration itself in 2017 to warn ISIS+Al Qaeda of similar actions.

"His threat is immoral and Un-American," said Burns, now a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Others drew comparisons with the Taliban's 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan

Pompeo refused to give details on the 52 potential targets which Trump said had been drawn up to represent each and every hostage held in the standoff at the US embassy in Tehran four decades ago.

But one former official expressed skepticism that military planners would agree to target cultural sites.

"I find it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites," said Colin Kahl who was National Security Adviser to former vice president Joe Biden.

"Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD (Department of Defense) planners and lawyers do... and targeting cultural sites is war crime."

Defiant Trump doubles down on threat to Iran cultural sites Reviewed by khabarzar on January 06, 2020 Rating: 5

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