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Anti-war activist protest in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 2020.

Anti-war activist protest in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 2020. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Expert Notes US Bombing of Iran That Didn't Target Cultural Sites Would Still Be 'Terrible and Illegal'

The warning comes as President Donald Trump continued to assert the U.S. has a right to attack culturally significant sites.

Andrea Germanos

As President Donald Trump doubled down Sunday on his threat to target cultural sites in Iran if the country retaliated over the U.S. assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, one military analyst reminded the public that a more "culturally sensitive" American bombing campaign "would also be terrible and illegal."

The warning came by tweet from Ben Friedman, policy director of Defense Priorities, a pro-military group that advocates a "more prudent, restrained foreign policy."

Friedman's statement was backdropped by continued scrutiny over Trump's assertion Sunday that the U.S. has a right to attack Iranian cultural sites. The U.S. is party to the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention, which makes it a war crime to intentionally attack cultural sites.

Speaking to press aboard Air Force One, Trump said: "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."

That suggestion came a day after Trump sparked outrage when he tweeted Saturday:  "Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, 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 &  the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD."

Responding to that threat, Iran's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, compared Trump to the Islamic State (ISIS), which has destroyed culturally important landmarks in Iraq and Syria.

Democratic lawmakers including Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.) are attempting to rein in Trump's march towards war with Iran with War Powers resolutions to reassert their congressional role.

"The stakes could not be higher," Omar said in a tweet Sunday.

Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, said Monday: "Trump should be impeached for his attacks and threats against Iran. These are far more brazen violations of the War Powers Clause of the U.S. Constitution than anything regarding Ukraine."


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