US president Donald Trump has been locked in a war of words with Iran over the last few days. In one of the worst escalations of tensions between the United States and Iran, Trump threatened to target several cultural sites in the Persian nation, something that would easily constitute a war crime. The threat was communicated through a tweet but the President doubled down on the same during a White House press conference later in the day.
Trump argued that the US had every right to target these cultural sites. Speaking with journalists at the White House, he said, “They are allowed to kill and torture our people but we are not allowed to touch their cultural sites.”
The president also went on to argue that things “don’t work that way.” His comments came shortly after Iran noted that it had identified dozens of US interests that could be targeted as part of a response to the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
Soleimani was considered one of the most powerful generals in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and was killed at the Baghdad Airport by a US airstrike. Trump said in a tweet that the Pentagon would target 52 Iranian sites if Tehran retaliated against the assassination of Soleimani, some of which included cultural sites that are protected by international law.
Iran did retaliate though. Tehran fired a barrage of missiles into two US military bases in Iraq in the aftermath of Soleimani’s assassination. Pentagon officials confirmed that there were no casualties in the incident.
Some White House officials also noted that the missile strikes intentionally missed their targets in what was a clear sign that Iran didn’t want to escalate the issue further. Shortly after the attack, Trump addressed the nation confirming the incident adding that his administration was open to peace negotiations with Tehran.
Many international relations experts agree that we may have dodged a bullet this time round but there’s no knowing what will happen next due to the fragile nature of US-Iran relations right now. However, it’s clear that both these countries want to avoid a direct confrontation.
The US is still recovering from the mistakes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Another major conflict in the Middle East right now would be hugely unpopular in the US public unless something drastic happens to change that opinion.
Trump has also called on European allies including NATO to rein in on Iran. Major European powers like the UK have continued to honor the terms of the Iranian Nuclear Deal that was brokered by former US president Barack Obama, even after the White House withdrew from the agreement.
Although Trump has remained hopeful that a new deal with Iran is still achievable, right now there’s a lot of distrust between the two nations for such an agreement to come to fruition. Additionally, the US Congress has expressed its concern in the way the assassination of Soleimani was carried out, arguing that the president may have overstepped his power in this case.