President Donald Trump on Sunday urged the world to focus on the real atrocities in the Middle East instead of a tweet in which he taunted Iran.
Trump was pushing back against criticism of a tweet that implied cultural sites of significance within Iran could become fair game if Iran were to attack Americans in retaliation for the drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
For example, Andrea Prasow, acting Washington director at Human Rights Watch, accused Trump of planning war crimes by tweeting that cultural sites were not off limits.
“President Trump should publicly reverse his threats against Iran’s cultural property and make clear that he will not authorize nor order war crimes,” she said in a statement on the group’s website.
“The US Defense Department should publicly reaffirm its commitment to abide by the laws of war and comply only with lawful military orders,” she said.
Trump stood by his words.
“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 told reporters, referring to Iran, according to NBC.
Many veterans have said Trump was right to approve the attack the killed Soleimani.
“If you’re in my community, it’s pretty safe to say that you’ve probably buried somebody who was killed by [Soleimani], you know someone who’s lost a limb or been catastrophically wounded, and you know a Gold Star family who has been destroyed by this guy,” retired Green Beret Master Sgt. Terry Schappert told Fox News.
“If you can’t care about that, you can care about all the people he’s killed over there … Iraq, Syria, Lebanon … his own country … he’s murdered and tortured people,” he said.
Soleimani led proxy wars resulting in the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition forces, including my friends and colleagues. Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump for your bold decision in fighting against our enemies #WI07 pic.twitter.com/PwtynIPTOW
— Jason Church (@JasonChurchWI) January 3, 2020
During his return to Washington aboard Air Force One, Trump spoke with the media about the drone strike and Iran’s threats of reprisals.
Trump was asked about the possibility of an Iranian attack.
“If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation,” he said.
Trump said American surveillance on Soleimani, an Iranian general who was the behind-the-scenes leader of pro-Iran militias in Iraq, dated back 18 months.
“He was leading his country down a very bad dangerous path,” Trump said.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to soothe feathers that were ruffled over Trump’s tweet.
“The American people should know that we have prepared for this, that we are ready, that our responses are lawful, and that the president will take every action necessary to respond should Iran decide to escalate,” Pompeo said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
During his Sunday night remarks to the media, Trump also said the U.S. has no plans to leave Iraq, despite a resolution from Iraq’s parliament calling for that to happen.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time,” Trump said. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”
If Iraq tries to oust the U.S., Trump said, “we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”
“If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq,” Trump said.
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