President Trump reiterates threat to target Iranian cultural sites

Originally Published: 05 JAN 20 19:32 ET
Updated: 05 JAN 20 19:55 ET

(CNN) -- President Donald Trump reiterated his threat to target Iranian cultural sites on Sunday evening in a conversation with reporters aboard Air Force One.

"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, according to a pool report.

Trump was speaking on his return flight to Washington from Florida where he was staying at Mar-a-Lago for the holidays.

Asked about the prospects for retaliation from Iran for the US strike that killed Iran's top military commander, Trump said "If it happens it happens."

"If they do anything there will be major retaliation," Trump said.

Trump's comments Sunday night come after two senior US officials described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran should the United States launch retaliatory strikes against Tehran, despite Trump saying a day before that such sites are among dozens the US has identified as potential targets.

"Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites. Whether ISIS's destruction of religious monuments or the burning of the Leuven Library in WWI, history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating," one of the officials told CNN.

"The Persian people hold a deeply influential and beautiful history of poetry, logic, art and science. Iran's leaders do not live up to that history. But America would be better served by leaders who embrace Persian culture, not threaten to destroy it," they added.

"Consistent with laws and norms of armed conflict, we would respect Iranian culture," the second senior US official said.


Trump threatens to sanction Iraq


The President also threatened sanctions on Iraq should US troops be expelled from the country.

"If they do ask us to leave, if we don't do it in a very friendly basis. We will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before ever," Trump said aboard Air Force One, according to a pool report. "It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."

Trump said the costs of maintaining an American troop presence in the country over the past many years should be repaid by Iraq if the country chooses to rescind the agreement allowing them to stay.

"We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that's there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it," Trump said.

Earlier Sunday, the Iraqi Parliament voted to obligate Iraq's government "to work towards ending the presence of all foreign troops on Iraqi soil," according to the media office of the Iraqi Parliament.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

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