Jan 5, 2020

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

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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.

Go deeperArrowJan 6, 2020

"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

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