"I like to obey the law": Trump says U.S. won't target Iranian cultural sites

Not much to add to last night’s post, although I continue to be surprised at how willing he is to seemingly conflate the regime with the Iranian people writ large. Normally U.S. officials are careful to distinguish the two, treating the latter as hostages of the former. Trump follows the same playbook — normally:


It’s an effective way to delegitimize the regime. Level Iran’s cultural sites, though, and you’d be telling the people that your animus is towards them and their heritage, not just the regime. Why the hell would Trump want to do that?

I explained why in last night’s thread, but I also guessed that he wasn’t serious about the threat. He wasn’t:

It’s not just terrible politics, it’s a slam-dunk war crime. And it’s poor tactics. Imagine wasting a bomb that could be aimed at a platoon of Quds Force troops on some Persian ruin instead.

I don’t know what he means either when he says they’re “allowed” to kill Americans. They’re “allowed” to do only what we allow them to do. Soleimani is … no longer allowed. That’s the great virtue of Trump’s strike last week, showing the regime that its expectations of what America will tolerate in terms of provocations will need to be recalibrated.

In fairness to him, it’s a tense, confusing moment inside the White House for a lot of people:

When questioned about the purported information that proved Soleimani was planning major attacks against American forces in the region prior to his death, [White House press secretary Stephanie] Grisham noted that she could not go into any details but slammed those who are skeptical of the U.S. intelligence system.

“I know a lot of people are now questioning the intel, that’s really unfortunate,” she replied. “A lot of people are saying [about the strike], ‘To what benefit?’ I would answer that question: The benefit is to that we saved American lives. Saved members of the military, we saved diplomats, and a lot of families from having to welcome their loved ones home in coffins.”

They’re really, truly going with the talking point that it’s bad to second-guess U.S. intelligence after three years of “deep-state witch hunt!” tweets, huh? Poor Tucker Carlson is going to end up drinking on the air tonight.

Relatedly, Trump also hinted during this same photo op that we’ll have more details tomorrow about the Iranian plot that the strike on Soleimani was designed to disrupt. Mike Pompeo is set to brief members of Congress; no doubt some details will leak afterward. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s SecDef Mark Esper warning Iran that we don’t intend to start a war with them but we’re certainly prepared to finish one. To which I say: We are? When was the last time we finished one?