WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday evening doubled down on his claim that he would target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the targeted killing of one of its top generals, breaking with his secretary of state over the issue.
Aboard Air Force One on his way back from his holiday trip to Florida, Mr. Trump reiterated to reporters traveling with him the spirit of a Twitter post on Saturday, when he said that the United States government had identified 52 sites for retaliation against Iran if there were a response to Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani’s death. Some, he tweeted, were of “cultural” significance.
Such a move could be considered a war crime under international laws, but Mr. Trump said Sunday that he was undeterred.
“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” the president said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.”
The remarks came just hours after the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, walked back Mr. Trump’s tweets and said that whatever was done in any military engagement with Iran would be within the bounds of the law.
Mr. Trump also vowed to impose sanctions on Iraq if a move to evict American military personnel from the country takes place, a possibility heightened by the Iraqi Parliament’s passage Sunday of a measure to expel foreign troops. And Mr. Trump said that he had been tracking General Suleimani for many months.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.