Trump begrudgingly says he won't commit war crimes 'if that's the law'

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Trump seems to have learned attacking Iranian cultural sites is a war crime and not legal.

Donald Trump on Tuesday begrudgingly admitted that retaliatory attacks on Iranian cultural sites would be against the law, and that if that's the case, he won't order the military to carry out war crimes.

"Well as I said yesterday, it was very interesting, they're allowed to kill our people, they're allowed to maim our people, they're allowed to blow up everything that we have and there's nothing to stop them," Trump said in the Oval Office, repeating his rhetoric from the weekend in which he threatened to commit war crimes by attacking Iranian cultural sites.

"And we are, according to various laws, supposed to be very careful with their cultural heritage then you know what, if that's what the law is — I like to obey the law," Trump continued. "But think of it, they kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very careful with their cultural institutions? But I'm OK with it."

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Trump's comments suggest he is frustrated with long-standing international treaties that prohibit targeting of cultural sites to preserve history and avoid civilian casualties. Trump threatened to attack those sites if Iran retaliates against the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

"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," Trump tweeted on Saturday.

However, his hands appear to be tied, after Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that the military would not carry out an order to attack Iranian cultural sites if Trump ordered them.

"We will follow the laws of armed conflict," Esper said at a news conference on Monday, admitting that attacking cultural sites is indeed a war crime.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.