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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.

"George, I've seen what we are planning in terms of the target set. ... The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed at the singular mission of protecting and defending America. President Trump has been diligent about that. He doesn't want war."
— Mike Pompeo on ABC's "This Week"

Why it matters: Trump's warning about cultural sites prompted immediate outrage from Iranian officials, who accused the president of flouting international law and threatening war crimes.

  • United Nations resolution 2347, which the U.S. supported in 2017, "condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage," including religious sites and artifacts.

The big picture: The Trump administration has repeatedly emphasized that its principal goal is de-escalation and that the Qasem Soleimani strike was carried out to “stop a war.” Rhetoric like this suggests the off-ramp to a hot conflict may be fading.

  • Pressed on this by CNN's Jake Tapper, Pompeo said: "We have provided [Iran] clear guidance about what it is we have as an expectation. ... It is important that they understand that America will no longer behave the way that it did during the Obama/Biden administration. We will no longer appease."

Go deeper: Iran calls Trump a "terrorist in a suit" after attack threat