Trump warned Iran that there will be a price to pay if they retaliate for the U.S. killing of one of the country’s top military and intelligence officials.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a Trump-ordered drone attack, and Iran immediately issued threats of payback.
Trump has returned the threat and said the U.S. will attack Iranian cultural sites if the country moves on any sort of revenge, NBC News reports.
"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," Trump said Sunday (Jan. 5), NBC News reports.
Trump was reiterating the threats he issued on Twitter Saturday (Jan. 4) in which he defended the killing of Soleimani, tweeting, “He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations” and adding how his posts should “serve as a WARNING” against Iran.
“Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a Twitter response.
NBC News reports, Protocol I of the Geneva Convention prohibits the targeting of "historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples," while also prohibiting making such sites the "object of reprisals."
Trump continued his Twitter threats to Iran, writing how the U.S. “just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World!”
NBC News reports that when Trump was asked about fears Iran might retaliate, he told reporters: "If it happens it happens. If they do anything there will be major retaliation."
Trump added that the U.S. had surveillance on Soleimani going back 18 months, NBC News reports: "He was leading his country down a very bad dangerous path," he said.
NBC News reports, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo batted down the idea that the U.S. would violate the law with any strikes on Iranian cultural sites.
"The American people should know that we have prepared for this, that we are ready, that our responses are lawful, and that the president will take every action necessary to respond should Iran decide to escalate," Pompeo told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday, NBC News reports.
Trump’s threats go beyond Iran. He also warned Iraq that he would levy punishing sanctions if it expelled American troops in retaliation for the drone attack that killed Soleimani and six others, the Associated Press reports.
Congress is pushing for explanations behind the attack. On Monday, two top Senate Democrats called on Trump to immediately declassify the administration’s reasoning for the strike on Soleimani, saying there is “no legitimate justification” for keeping information from the public, the AP reports.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the airstrike “provocative and disproportionate” and said it had “endangered our service members, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran,” the AP reports.
Pelosi said the House would introduce and vote this week on a war powers resolution to limit the president’s military actions regarding Iran. A similar resolution was introduced in the Senate, the AP reports.
While Trump did meet the 48-hour deadline required by the War Powers Act to notify Congress after the drone strike, Pelosi said it wasn’t enough, stating the notification, “raises more questions than it answers. This document prompts serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran,” the AP reports.
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