"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, quoted by the CNN.
On Saturday, Trump said that the United States had identified 52 targets, including those important for the Iranian culture, that would be struck if Iran attacks US individuals or assets.
....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. The USA wants no more threats!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2020
The statement prompted criticism since targeting cultural sites is a war crime according to the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural sites. The UN Security Council also passed a resolution in 2017 that called the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage sites a war crime. The United States has supported the document.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Sunday that Trump’s threats were an admission that the US was ready to commit war crimes.
The US military bases in Iraq have faced multiple attacks over the past two months. In late December, the United States killed dozens of members of the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group in response to a deadly on a US military base in Kirkuk. The developments triggered Shiite protests and a siege of the US embassy in Baghdad.
On Friday, the United States carried out an airstrike near the Baghdad airport, killing Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Muhandis.
The United States said the strike was required to avert an imminent attack on Washington. However, no proof of the alleged plot was provided.
Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One on Sunday, Trump said the White House "may discuss" releasing the intelligence on Soleimani’s alleged plan to attack the United States, according to CNBC.