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Pentagon distances itself from Trump’s threat to hit Iranian cultural sites

The Pentagon distanced itself from President Donald Trump’s assertions that he would bomb Iranian cultural sites despite international prohibitions on such attacks.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. will “follow the laws of armed conflict.” When asked if that ruled out targeting cultural sites, Esper said pointedly, “That’s the laws of armed conflict.”

The split between the president and his Pentagon chief comes amid heightened tensions with Tehran following a U.S. drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.




Esper’s public comments reflected the concerns of other defense and military officials, who cited legal prohibitions on attacks on civilian, cultural and religious sites, except under certain, threatening circumstances.

Trump had twice warned that he would hit Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates against the U.S. First in a tweet on Saturday and then on Sunday to reporters.

“We have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” he tweeted.



Attacking cultural sites goes against international law.

Specifically, the 1954 Hague Convention says nations must “take all possible steps” to protect cultural property and shall refrain “from any act of hostility, directed against such property.” It also says nations must not use cultural sites for any threatening purposes that would make such locations a military target.


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