Jan 6, 2020

Pentagon chief on targeting cultural sites: "We will follow the laws of armed conflict"

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Monday that "we will follow the laws of armed conflict" as they relate to the targeting of cultural sites, which is considered a war crime, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The remark appears to contradict President Trump's threat Sunday to target 52 Iranian sites — including ones "important" to Iranian culture — as a response to a potential retaliatory attack by Iran.

  • Appearing on the cable talk shows Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a similarly vague response. Pompeo refused to directly disavow Trump's statement, but said that "we'll behave lawfully" and "inside the system."

But, but, but: Trump has continued to double down on the threat.

  • On Sunday, the president told reporters: "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."

Go deeper: The Met calls Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites "abhorrent"

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Trump walks back targeting cultural sites: "I like to obey the law"

President Trump said in the Oval Office Tuesday that he would obey international laws banning the targeting of cultural sites when considering how to retaliate against a potential Iranian attack.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

The Met calls Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites "abhorrent"

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Photo: Jonathan Elderfield/Getty Images

The president and director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday called President Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites in retaliation to a possible attack "abhorrent to the collective values of our society."

Why it matters: Targeting cultural sites is a war crime under a 1954 Hague treaty. The UN Security Council also unanimously passed a resolution in 2017 condemning the destruction of heritage sites in response to attacks by the Islamic State. Nonetheless, President Trump doubled down on his stance Sunday night.

Go deeperArrowJan 6, 2020

Trump warns he may hit Iraq with sanctions, doubles down on Iran threat

President Trump speaks during a Jan. 3 campaign event in Miami, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Sunday the U.S. wouldn't leave the joint U.S. air base with Iraq "unless they pay us back," and he doubled down on his threat to target 52 Iranian sites.

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."
Go deeperArrowJan 6, 2020