Graham says he warned Trump against targeting Iranian culture sites

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPentagon chief says US will ‘follow the laws of armed conflict’ after Trump’s Iran threats Overnight Defense: Washington returns to Iran crisis | Defense chief denies US troops leaving Iraq | House sets vote on Iran war powers | Bolton willing to testify in impeachment trial Graham says he warned Trump against targeting Iranian culture sites MORE (R-S.C.) said on Monday that he warned President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump offers Australian PM assistance in fighting widespread fires Trump administration officials begin drafting potential Iraq sanctions after Trump threat: report Pence to focus on US Iran policy in speech MORE against targeting Iranian cultural sites — a step the president has repeatedly threatened if Iran retaliates over the death of a top general killed in a U.S. strike. 

“I talked to him today. I said we’re not at war with the culture of the Iranian people. … Cultural sites, religious sites are not lawful targets,” Graham said. 

“Putting cultural sites on the table as a military target, I think, undercuts what we’re trying to do,” Graham added, recounting his conversation with Trump. 

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The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the conversation. 

The talk came a day after Trump doubled down on his threat to target Iranian cultural heritage sites, asserting to a group of reporters that the U.S. had the right to strike them.

“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 on Sunday.

In separate tweets on Saturday, Trump threatened to attack sites “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture” should Iranian-backed forces strike U.S. civilians or military targets in the Middle East in retaliation for the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force.

“Iran has been nothing but problems for many years,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “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 & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

The threat has sparked backlash from top Iranian officials, who warned it would violate international law.

“Having committed grave breaches of int’l law in Friday’s cowardly assassinations, @realdonaldtrump threatens to commit again new breaches of JUS COGENS,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME.”

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