On Saturday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to threaten Iranian cultural sites in the event that Iran were to retaliate for the killing go military leader Qasem Soleimani. 

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His tweet on Saturday afternoon read, “Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime…”

Trump continued to threaten that if Iran retaliates, the United States would target 52 Iranian cultural sites, one for each American taken hostage in the Iranian hostage crisis during President Jimmy Carter’s presidency. He concluded by adding that these sites would be targeted “very fast and very hard.”

Such an attack would violate several international treaties such as the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention, which the United States is a member of since 2008, and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347, which condemns “the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, including the destruction of religious sites and artifacts.” Under international law, such an act would be prosecuted as a war crime. 

The International Criminal Court has set a precedent of prosecuting cultural destruction as a war crime. In 2012, when a jihadist group destroyed religious artifacts in Timbuktu, Mali, the group’s leader Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi was charged with a war crime for the destruction. 

However, Trump seems to not be affected by this. On his trip back from holiday aboard Air Force One on Sunday,  Trump told reporters, “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.”

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Jake Tapper of CNN’s State of the Union, “We will be bold in protecting American interests…We’re going to do the things that are right and the things that are consistent with American law.”