Reason Roundup

Trump Wants to Target Iranian Cultural Sites, Says His Tweets Shall Serve as Notice to Congress

Plus: the never-quite-there Klobuchar Moment, how Fox News learned to love the deep state, and more...


Should Iran retaliate for an American drone killing commander Qassem Soleimani last Friday, the U.S. will start targeting Iranian "cultural sites," said President Donald Trump. "Iran has been nothing but problems for many years," the president tweeted on January 4.

"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."

When asked about this comment, Trump again expressed an intent to go after cultural sites, saying: "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 site? It doesn't work that way."

Destruction of cultural heritage sites and artifacts is opposed by the U.N. Security Council. The council—of which the U.S. is a permanent member—in 2015 condemned "the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria … whether such destruction is incidental or deliberate, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects."

And condemning destruction of cultural sites and objects goes much further back than that. As the Los Angeles Times points out, the Hague Convention of 1907 said "all necessary steps must be taken" to spare "buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected."

And the Geneva Convention states that "any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples."

Acts such as these are considered by many to be a war crime, and a lot of U.S. media has been condemning them as such, as have some Democratic politicians. "Targeting civilians and cultural sites is what terrorists do. It's a war crime," tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D–Conn.).

"The President of the United States is threatening to commit war crimes on Twitter," said Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.).

Trump also announced over the weekend that his tweets shall serve as official notice to Congress of his intent to engage in military action against Iran.

"These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner," Trump tweeted on Sunday evening.

Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) says all that needs to be said on this one:

But for the record, here's how the House Foreign Affairs Committee responded:

Quippy principles from Democratic leaders ring hollow, however, when party members in Congress have repeatedly voted against measures to rein in presidential war powers or require more congressional oversight.

Trump's dangerous Twitter tantrums come as Iranian people have been pouring out in mourning over Soleimani, ("for now, Iran is united—in anger at the United States," says The New York Times) and the Iraqi parliament has voted the U.S. military out.

Owing to that last bit, Trump has started threatening Iraq again.

"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. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame," the president said.

Meanwhile, it hasn't taken long for the administration's justification for murdering Soleimani to start unraveling. Trump and company initially insisted that Soleimani's death was necessary because he posed an "imminent" threat to American citizens and was planning an upcoming attack that would cost hundreds of U.S. lives. But a range of administration officials suggest that Trump's political image was the only thing under imminent threat. The option of attacking Soleimani had been floating around as a potential (but not optimal) plan for months.

In other Iran developments, Eric Boehm reports:

The Pentagon has approved plans to send 3,000 more troops to the region. But the debate over the next steps must now shift to Congress, as the Constitution demands. Sen. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) has announced plans to introduce a war powers resolution in the Senate, forcing a debate over whether the U.S. should go to war with Iran or place limits on Trump's ability to engage in hostilities.

On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) announced a resolution similar to Kaine's would be put forth in the House.

Also on Sunday, Iran announced that it would be pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal that the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of in 2018.


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