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6 Jan, 2020 17:19

Damage control: Trump admin backtracking on threat to target Iran’s ‘cultural sites’ after international outrage

Damage control: Trump admin backtracking on threat to target Iran’s ‘cultural sites’ after international outrage

US administration officials are scrambling to walk back Donald Trump’s suggestion that he would target Iranian cultural sites by denying that he ever made the threat, even after he doubled down.

Trump provoked widespread outrage with a tweet Saturday claiming that Washington had 52 Iranian sites in its crosshairs, some of which were “very important” to “Iranian culture.” Those targets, he added, would be hit “very fast and very hard” if Tehran retaliated for the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani.

Asked about the threat on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that Trump “didn’t say he’d go after cultural sites.” Probed during a separate appearance on ABC News about why Trump was “threatening Iran with war crimes,” Pompeo said the administration would “behave lawfully” and “inside the system.”

Yet, hours after Pompeo’s comments, Trump doubled down in comments to White House pool reporters: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” he said.

Also on rt.com Trump says US will strike 52 Iranian sites ‘VERY FAST & VERY HARD’ if Tehran moves to avenge general’s death

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway was also on damage control Monday, saying Trump simply posed the idea as a “question” — though his original tweet explicitly states that cultural sites were among the US’ list of targets. Conway also seemingly attempted to preemptively spin any hits on cultural sites as legitimate by suggesting that Iran has many “strategic military sites” that are “also cultural sites.” 

She later clarified that she did not mean to say that Iran was camouflaging its military targets within cultural sites, according to Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a tepid warning against targeting Iran’s cultural heritage, saying through a spokesman on Monday that “there are international conventions in place” intended to prevent that kind of destruction.

Meanwhile, UNESCO also told the US to stay away from Iran’s cultural heritage, reminding Washington that it is party to treaties which explicitly prohibit the targeting of cultural sites during armed conflict. 

Also on rt.com ‘There are international conventions’: British PM Johnson warns US against bombing Iranian cultural sites

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