KEY POINTS

  • At least two White House officials are strongly against strikes against Iranian cultural sites
  • Trump has confirmed that hitting cultural sites is on the table
  • American allies have condemned any attack on an Iranian cultural site

Yesterday, President Donald Trump warned Iran that if it chose to retaliate against the United States for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, he had a list of 52 targets that could be hit swiftly in response. Among the targets, according to Trump, are some that are important to “Iranian culture.” While critics didn’t hesitate to slam the president, top officials in the White House are also reportedly expressing their own opposition to Trump’s plan.

Two officials, speaking to CNN, said that even though war with Iran may come, striking targets of cultural significance would not only be illegal, but ultimately foolish.

As one official said: “Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites... history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating,” adding that “America would be better served by leaders who embrace Persian culture, not threaten to destroy it.”

Other insider sources have told CNN that the United States “would respect Iranian culture” and that there was no sign that plans were being made to strike cultural targets.

Despite sharp opposition coming from U.S. allies including Britain as well as officials in Trump’s own White House, the president again reasserted his intent to view cultural sites as valid war targets, Axios reported.

“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 said Sunday.

Most legal experts agree that deliberately destroying or damaging culturally important sites during wartime qualifies as a war crime. While in some cases, the targeting of such places could be excused as plausible accidents, Trump’s open admission that Iranian cultural sites can be targets doesn’t leave him much leeway in this regard.

Given all of the push back, from inside and outside, it begs the question: Why did the Department of Defense give Trump a list of targets that would constitute an international war crime? Chances are, such sites were likely not knowingly part of the list given to the president.

What’s more likely is that Trump’s (likely hollow) threats against Iran’s cultural sites are intended to be intimidating rather than be interpreted as being literal.

President Donald Trump is threatening war against Iran and sanctions against Iraq President Donald Trump is threatening war against Iran and sanctions against Iraq Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON