WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Sunday threatened “major retaliation” if Iran avenges the killing of a key military general and warned of massive economic sanctions against Iraq’s neighbor if the country expels US troops there.
The two warnings came as Iran suspended compliance with a tattered international nuclear deal was further reduced, lifting the restrictions on the amount of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
The latest blow to the deal, intended to ensure that Iran did not develop a nuclear weapon under the cover of its nuclear industry, intensified the regional crisis that started with the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday.
Trump ordered a U.S. drone to fire a missile at Soleimani, one of Iran’s most influential people, when he was close to the international airport of the Iraqi capital.
Enraged, black-clad mourners rampaged the streets of Iran’s second city Mashhad to pay final respects to Soleimani’s remains while chanting “death to America.”
Trump cautioned Iran bluntly against taking revenge, reinforcing his assertion that the goals of U.S. bombing might include the cultural heritage sites of Iran. Critics say that, under international law, would qualify as a war crime.
“If they do anything there will be major retaliation,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, as he flew back to Washington — and a looming Senate impeachment trial — from vacation in Florida.
If Tehran attacks U.S. troops and interests in the region, Trump had already threatened bombing 52 unspecified targets in Iran.
He was adamant in his latest comments that targets might include places of cultural importance in a country with an ancient heritage and two dozen UNESCO-listed sites.
“They’re allowed to kill our people,” Trump said. “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 site? It doesn’t work that way.”