“Why is the president threatening Iran with war crimes?” George Stephanopoulos asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. It’s a rather stunning question in and of itself. But Pompeo basically refuted President Donald Trump’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites, answering, “We’ll behave lawfully.”
The question posed to Pompeo came after Trump took to Twitter on Saturday and threatened Iran, saying that American military forces have “targeted 52 Iranian sites” and “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.”
Trump added, “The USA wants no more threats!” thus couching his threat to commit war crimes as a response to retaliatory statements coming out of Iran after a US drone strike killed high-ranking Iranian military and intelligence official Qasem Soleimani earlier this week.
But Pompeo claimed that the US will act lawfully, saying, “We will act within the system. We always have and we always will.” Stephanopoulos followed up by quoting Trump’s tweet, pointing towards the portion where the president wrote about the 52 Iranian sites, “including sites important to the Iranian culture,” and then asked, “That wasn’t accurate?”
Pompeo again contradicted the president’s Twitter statement by saying, “I’ve seen what we are planning in terms of the target set. I’m sure the Department of Defense is continuing to develop options. The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed with a singular mission, of protecting and defending America.”
"Why is the president threatening Iran with war crimes?" @GStephanopoulos asks Pompeo as Trump tweets cultural sites in Iran could be targeted.
Pompeo: "We'll behave lawfully"
Stephanopoulos: Is Trump's tweet inaccurate?
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 5, 2020
It’s also important to remember, as Stephanopoulos pointed out, that targeting other countries’ cultural sites is against the Geneva Convention as well as the Department of Defense’s own war manual. “As you know, the Geneva Conventions outlaw attacks on cultural objects and places of worship. Our own DOD war manual discusses the protection of cultural property,” Stephanopoulos reminded Pompeo.