President Trump and his administration have claimed that the drone strike targeting Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani was an effort to deescalate tension with Iran and prevent a war, but it’s not clear what role Trump expects his blustering tweets to play in that process. On Saturday, the president responded to Iran’s vow to retaliate for Soleimani’s death by tweeting that the U.S. would respond to an Iranian strike on “any Americans” or “American assets” by striking 52 preselected sites in Iran, including some that have cultural importance to Iranians:
Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters. He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years. 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. The USA wants no more threats!
As many were quick to point out, deliberately attacking cultural sites is a war crime:
That didn’t stop the president from reiterating his threat on Sunday evening:
Trump’s tweets followed massive regime-sanctioned demonstrations across Iran in response to Soleimani’s death, both to mourn the widely known general, as well as to show resolve against the U.S.
In addition, a pair of rockets were fired at bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq, though it seems unlikely that indirect rocket fire was part of any official Iranian response. But while speculation has been rampant about if, when, or how Iran might retaliate, the regime’s threats have apparently been enough to prompt an escalation-begging response from Trump that mirrors Iran’s often outlandish rhetoric.
It’s also difficult to take Trump’s threat seriously, considering the fact that hyperbolic outbursts are a key element of what he perceives to be foreign policy — as well as how he pointed out that the number of targets was chosen to line up with the 52 hostages Iran once took at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, which is not how the U.S. — or any nation — goes about picking military targets. Then again, maybe Trump hopes he can win the first Nobel Peace Prize awarded for preventing war by promising war crimes.
This post has been updated.