McConnell made that understatement to reporters two days after Trump doubled down on his threats to attack locations that could include Iran’s two dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites. Destroying a country’s cultural sites is considered a war crime under the 1954 Hague Convention and the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which both the U.S. and Iran have ratified.
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the U.S. military may target sites “important to Iran & the Iranian culture.”
On Sunday, he reiterated that threat. “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. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites,” Trump said aboard Air Force One on Sunday. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Shortly after McConnell’s comments on Tuesday, Trump backed away from the idea.
“If that’s what the law is, I like to obey the law,” he told reporters from the Oval Office regarding the possibility of illegally destroying cultural sites.
Trump’s response also comes after Defense Secretary Mark Esper refused to back the president’s threats during an interview on CNN on Monday, repeatedly saying the U.S. “will follow the laws of armed conflict” when asked if he was willing to target cultural sites.