Written by Maggie Haberman
President Donald Trump on Sunday evening doubled down on his claim that he would target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the targeted killing of one of its top generals, breaking with his secretary of state over the issue.
Aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida, Trump reiterated to reporters traveling with him the spirit of a Twitter post Saturday, when he said that the US government had identified 52 sites for retaliation against Iran if there were a response to Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s death. Some, he tweeted, were of “cultural” significance.
Such a move could be considered a war crime under international laws, but 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. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
The remarks came just hours after the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, walked back Trump’s tweets and said that whatever was done in any military engagement with Iran would be within the bounds of the law.
Trump also vowed to impose sanctions on Iraq if a move to evict US military personnel from the country takes place, a possibility heightened by the Iraqi Parliament’s passage Sunday of a measure to expel foreign troops. And Trump said that he had been tracking Soleimani for many months.