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Trump Threat About Iranian Cultural Sites Is Controversial

World bodies have prohibited attacks on heritage sites
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 5, 2020 10:29 AM CST

(Newser) – Iran's ancient and rich cultural landscape has become a potential US military target as Washington and Tehran lob threats and take steps toward a possible open conflict, the AP reports. President Trump tweeted Saturday that the US has a list of 52 potential targets should Iran retaliate for the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, some of which he said are important to Iranian culture. The earliest traces of human history in Iran reach as far back as 100,000 BC. Its historic monuments preserve the legacy of a civilization that has kept its Persian identity throughout the tides of foreign conquests, weaving in influences from Turkic, South Asian, and Arab cultures. "Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif tweeted. "Where are they now?"

Trump's threat also raised questions about the legality of such an attack. Zarif said Sunday that it would be a war crime, per NBC. It's prohibited by the 1954 Hague Convention, and the UN Security Council passed a resolution in 2017 condemning the destruction of heritage sites. Attacks by the Islamic State group and other factions in Syria and Iraq prompted that vote. The president's tweet also caused concern in Washington. One national security official said Trump's threat prompted calls for others in his administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to clarify the matter. The official called that necessary to affirm that the US would not intentionally commit war crimes. Iran has two dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

(Read more world heritage sites stories.)

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