Trump Says U.S. Would Hit 52 Iranian Sites if American Targets Attacked

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
President Donald Trump makes a speech in Miami, Florida, January 3, 2020. (Reuters/Eva Marie Uzcategui)

President Donald Trump said on Saturday the United States has targeted 52 Iranian sites that it would strike if Iran attacks Americans or U.S. assets in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.

Showing no signs of seeking to reduce tensions raised by the strike on Friday that he ordered, the U.S. president issued a stern threat to Iran on Twitter.

Trump wrote that Iran “is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets” in response to Soleimani’s death. Trump said the United States has “targeted 52 Iranian sites” and that some were “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!” Trump said, adding that the 52 targets represented the 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran after being seized at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Trump’s suggestion that the United States could strike targets of importance to Iranian culture raised eyebrows.

Colin Kahl, a former Obama administration national security official, wrote on Twitter that he “found it hard to believe the Pentagon would provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites. Trump may not care about the laws of war, but DoD planners and lawyers do … and targeting cultural sites is war crime.”

The Pentagon declined to comment on the 52 targets and referred questions to the White House, which did not respond.

Soleimani was killed in the U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport. Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was also killed in a U.S. strike that has raised the specter of wider conflict in the Middle East.

Earlier on Saturday, the White House submitted a formal notification of the attack under the 1973 War Powers Act.

Trump’s tweets were issued during his vacation stay in Florida. A growing number of Democrats have said the Republican president’s action is bringing the United States to the brink of war.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Saturday “the Trump Administration’s provocative, escalatory and disproportionate military engagement continues to put service members, diplomats and citizens of America and our allies in danger.”

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people marched in Iraq to mourn Soleimani and the Iraqi militia leader.