Jan 5, 2020

Iranian military adviser says U.S. targeting cultural sites would be a war crime

Hossein Dehghan, 2017. Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told CNN in an interview Sunday that Iran will target U.S. military sites in response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, one its most influential commanders.

Why it matters: President Trump tweeted Saturday that the U.S. will attack 52 sites that are "important" to Iranian culture if the country strikes American assets. United Nations resolution 2347 makes it a war crime to target cultural heritage and religious sites.

What they're saying: Dehghan called Trump a "veritable gangster" for his comments and accused him of not knowing international law.

  • If the U.S. strikes a cultural site, "no American military staff, no American political center, no American military base, no American vessel will be safe," Dehghan said.

The big picture: Dehghan stressed that war could be avoided if the U.S. accepts Iran's retaliation and does not escalate the conflict further. "Let me tell you one thing," he said. "Our leadership has officially announced that we have never been seeking war and we will not be seeking war."

  • "It was America that has started the war. Therefore, they should accept appropriate reactions to their actions. The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted. Afterward, they should not seek a new cycle."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

"52 targets": Trump tweet sparks Iranian furor

Iranians march behind a vehicle carrying the coffin of Qasem Soleimani in the northeastern city of Mashhad. Photo: Mohammad Taghi/Tasnim News/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Iran are trading stunningly specific threats, with President Trump tweeting Saturday night that the military could target 52 Iranian sites — including some "important" to Iranian culture — and an Iranian commander pointing to "35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv."

Why it matters: This rhetoric suggests the off-ramp from a hot conflict may be fading, with Trump's warning about cultural sites prompting Iranian officials to accuse the president of flouting international law and threatening war crimes.

Go deeperArrowJan 5, 2020

The latest: Iran general who replaced Soleimani vows revenge for death

Photo: Mohammed Sawaf/AFP via Getty Images

Iran's new top commander Esmail Ghaani, who replaced Gen. Qasem Soleimani after he died in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq, pledged during a televised address Monday to avenge the general's killing, AP reports.

The latest: Ghaani‘s declaration that God "has promised to get his revenge" and that "certainly actions will be taken" came hours after Iran said it would no longer abide by limits on its uranium enrichment and Iraq's parliament voted to call on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from the country over Friday's airstrike.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 6, 2020

Pompeo on Trump's Iran threat: "We'll behave lawfully"

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed President Trump's threat to target Iranian cultural sites, declining to disavow the president's tweet on the Sunday cable talk shows but stating repeatedly that the U.S. would behave within the rules of the system.

Go deeperArrowJan 5, 2020