After vowing to attack more than 50 cultural sites in Iran if the country retaliated for the U.S. airstrike that killed one of its top military leaders, Donald Trump walked back his comments, saying that he wants to “obey the law.”
As USA Today reports, the president threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites after the country stated that it that intended to retaliate for the drone airstrike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a revered leader of the Quds Force.
Trump said that the U.S would attack 52 Iranian cultural sites, “some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” The number of sites corresponds to the number of people taken during the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
After facing criticism for this threat, the president doubled down with the following remarks, as quoted by USA Today.
“[T]hey’re allowed to kill our people, they’re allowed to torture and maim our people … and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
As many critics have pointed out, destroying important cultural sites is considered a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection fo Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
On Tuesday, Trump appeared to have changed his tune, walking back the threat.
“And you know what, if that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” he said.
Still, despite backing off, the president complained that being unable to strike at cultural sites seemed unfair.
“But think of it. They kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I’m OK with it,” he concluded, during an Oval Office meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
In addition, the president promised to exact revenge if Iran retaliated for the death of Soleimani.
“I will say this: If Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences and very strongly,” he said.
Shortly after Trump’s comments, news broke that Iran had launched at least a dozen missiles aimed at two United States military bases in Iraq. As The Inquisitr previously reported, Iranian officials announced that they had launched attacks at bases in Erbil in northern Iraq and the al Asad air base in western Iraq at 1:20 a.m. — the time that Suleimani was killed in the U.S. airstrike last week.
Iran has launched 'tens' of missiles at the al-Asad airbase in Iraq, where U.S. forces are housed, according to Iran's state TV pic.twitter.com/KLikqK2fsw— NowThis (@nowthisnews) January 8, 2020
While the White House hasn’t responded to the attack, the administration said in a statement that Trump was aware of the situation and monitoring it as it unfolded.