Trump threatens to target Iranian heritage sites

Gate of All Nations, Persepolis

Donald Trump has threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates America's assassination of General Qassem Suleimani. On Saturday the US president tweeted ''Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites ... some at a very high level & important to Iran & Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD'. Later Trump reiterated the threat, telling reporters ''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.'

Article 53 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions specifically prohibits any acts of hostility against cultural objects. The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954), to which America is a signatory, makes similar prohibitions.

Reflecting the seeming disorganisation of the military operation, senior US officials, speaking to CNN on the condition of anonymity, said that there is considerable shock and opposition to the deliberate targeting of culture during any US offensive from within the American government. CNN quotes one as noting 'Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites. Whether ISIS's destruction of religious monuments or the burning of the Leuven Library in WWI, history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating.'

'The Persian people hold a deeply influential and beautiful history of poetry, logic, art and science. Iran's leaders do not live up to that history. But America would be better served by leaders who embrace Persian culture, not threaten to destroy it,.'

Iran boasts 24 World Heritage Sites, including the Golestan Palace in Tehran and Persepolis, the 515 BC ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.