Pentagon Rejects Trump’s Threat To Illegally Target Iranian Cultural Sites
The Pentagon split from President Donald Trump in his threats to target Iranian cultural sites due to international prohibition of such attacks, according to Yahoo News.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. will “follow the laws of armed conflict,” and when asked if that ruled out targeting cultural sites, Esper bluntly said, “That’s the laws of armed conflict.”
President Trump had previously warned that he would hit Iranian cultural sites if Tehran decided to retaliate against the U.S. following the U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s secretive Quds Force.
Trump first tweeted on Saturday: “We have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 Americans hostages taken by Iran many years ago), 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.”
His Twitter message immediately prompted outcry from legal scholars, national security experts, and Democratic lawmakers, yet the president doubled down on his threat the following day.
“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and main 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,” he told reporters.
However, the 1954 Hague Convention states that nations must “take all possible steps” to protect cultural property and shall refrain “from any act of hostility, directed against such property.”
Trump’s threats were met with strong condemnation.
“It shows that he is somewhat deranged about this,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “The pledge to attack cultural sites, likely, is a violation of international law.
Kaine said that all Trump is doing “is escalating tensions and he seems to believe, ‘I can strike you, but you can’t strike me.’ That’s not the way the world works.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York also reacted to the threats.
“The targeting of sites of global cultural heritage is abhorrent to the collective values of our society,” museum leaders said in a statement. “At this challenging time, we must remind ourselves of the global importance of protecting cultural sites -- the objects and places by which individuals, communities, and nations connect to their history and heritage.”