President Donald Trump doubled down on his threat to bomb cultural sites in Iran on Sunday before going on to threaten Iraq in retaliation against a vote by the Iraqi parliament in favor of the withdrawal of American troops.
On Saturday, Trump warned Iran via Twitter that he has a list of “52 targets” the United States military would attack, including cultural and historic sites, in response to any attack of American interests by Iran.
Bombing cultural and historic sites is a war crime under international and United States law, which is why Trump’s threat resulted in severe backlash.
Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to walk back Trump’s threat during an appearance on the Sunday news programs. But, as usual, Trump blew all that up while speaking to reporters on his way back to Washington DC from Mar-a-Lago.
“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 reportedly said.
Except it does work that way, and has for many decades now. The sites Trump is threatening are World Heritage sites that are visited by tourists from around the world. Attacking them means innocent citizens from other nations could be killed alongside Iranian citizens, including men, women and children. This kind of attack could very well draw condemnation from those nations in response to the killing of their people. They could even declare war on the United States since killing their citizens would be an act of war.
But Trump was not done. He even threatened Iraq in the wake of a vote in favor of removing American troops from the country, which was taken in response to the killing of Iranian General Qasem Suleimani in Baghdad.
Trump seems to think Iraq should be forced to pay us to leave.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive airbase that’s there,” Trump said. “It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it. If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”
Trump literally just threatened an ally and refused to remove troops from their sovereign soil, all while threatening to slap worse economic sanctions against them than he has slapped against Iran. That’s not going to improve U.S.-Iraq relations. If anything, it will make things worse and rally more opposition against the United States. Also, it should be pointed out that the air base Trump is referring to was actually built by the Iraqis in the 1980s.
Trump didn’t specify here, but the air base he has previously talked about costing the US “a fortune” to build, Al Asad, was actually built by…Iraq, in the ‘80s. The US has invested in improvements. https://t.co/6Xo99b2LQ5
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 6, 2020
And in a further blow to Trump’s threats against Iran, even Pentagon officials are refuting his list of “52 targets” and there is no list that includes cultural and historic sites.
“There are different lists, depending on the nature of the possible targets — missile bases, nuclear facilities, naval bases, airfields, et cetera — but I don’t know of a list that adds up to that number or one that includes cultural or historic sites like Persepolis,” one official told TIME.
Furthermore, two more officials told CNN that attacking these sites would rally opposition against the United States, thus putting our troops in increased danger and our own shores at risk of attack, particularly our own cultural and historic sites.
“Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites,” one official said. “Whether ISIS’s destruction of religious monuments or the burning of the Leuven Library in WWI, history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating. The Persian people hold a deeply influential and beautiful history of poetry, logic, art and science. Iran’s leaders do not live up to that history. But America would be better served by leaders who embrace Persian culture, not threaten to destroy it.”
In short, Iranians who currently support us could easily turn on us for destroying their beloved cultural and historic sites.
Another official suggested that the military would refuse to carry out an ordered attack on a cultural site.
“Consistent with laws and norms of armed conflict, we would respect Iranian culture,” the official said.
Trump’s threats are putting a target on our country and are costing us allies. If he continues with this dangerous rhetoric, he will lead the United States toward disaster and we will deserve it.
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