KEY POINTS

  • Lindsey Graham advises Trump against targeting Iranian culture sites
  • He says we’re not at war with Iranian people or culture
  • The U.S. faces continued threats of retaliation from Iran after the killing of General Qassem Soleimani

Republican Senator and ardent Trump supporter Lindsey Graham has advised the POTUS against targeting Iran’s sites of culture and antiquity. The veteran South Carolina legislator and former Trump rival said he talked to Trump on Monday and reminded him that the United States is not at war with the culture of Iran.

The Hill reports that Graham spoke with the President after his repeated Twitter threats to attack sites “at a very high level and important to Iran and the Iranian culture" if they targeted American soldiers or civilians in retaliation for the death of Iranian military leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

In his comments to reporters, Trump rejected the universally accepted assertion that Iranian culture sites shouldn’t be on the table during military engagement, ostensibly questioning why they shouldn’t target them in response to military aggression.“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," he said.

Graham effectively reminded him that it does not work that way: “Putting cultural sites on the table as a military target, I think, undercuts what we're trying to do,” he said, recounting his conversation with Trump.

The White House has not commented on the conversation, but it ontinues to face questions about the timing and motivation around Soleimani’s killing. Trump has ramped up the aggression, claiming that Iran has been “nothing but a problem for many years.” He even warned the country that retaliation will result in the U.S. targeting 52 different sites, including cultural institutions and military installations.

The threats have predictably resulted in tougher responses from Iran, saying that if Trump were to follow through on his threats, it would violate international law.

It remains to be seen if Graham’s advice, or anyone else’s, will resonate and cause Trump to dial back the rhetoric. Graham had previously praised the administration’s “resolve and strength” in the Soleimani killing.