Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Iran at the State Department in Washington on Dec. 19, 2019. (AP/Rourke) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Iran at the State Department in Washington on Dec. 19, 2019. (AP/Rourke)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Iran at the State Department in Washington on Dec. 19, 2019. (AP/Rourke)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy January 6, 2020

Pompeo falsely claims Trump did not say he’d go after Iranian cultural sites

If Your Time is short

  • Trump tweeted that the United States had "targeted 52 Iranian sites," including sites "important to Iran & the Iranian culture."
  • Trump later repeated the threat toward Iranian cultural sites while talking to reporters.
  • Iran has 22 cultural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo falsely claimed on Fox News that President Donald Trump did not threaten to target Iranian cultural sites.

Pompeo’s claim came when host Maria Bartiromo asked about a tweet in which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said Trump was advocating for a war crime.

"President Trump didn't say he'd go after a cultural site," Pompeo said. "Read what he said very closely."

We read what Trump said closely. In a series of tweets, the president issued a warning to Iran, saying the United States has "targeted 52 Iranian sites" it could strike if Iran were to attack.

Trump’s twitter thread came after the United States killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike aimed at an airport in Baghdad, Iraq.

"Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader," Trump said.

"Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some 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," he continued

Iran has 22 cultural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Some pundits and politicians, such as Ocasio-Cortez, argued that strikes against them could be considered war crimes under international law. 

The Geneva Conventions prohibit "acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples." And in March 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution condemning "the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage."

Hours after Pompeo made his claim on Bartiromo’s show, Trump restated his willingness to go after Iran’s cultural sites while speaking to reporters.

"They’re allowed to kill our people," he said, according to the Associated Press. "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? It doesn’t work that way."

The State Department did not respond to our requests for comment by deadline.

Our ruling

Pompeo said, "President Trump didn't say he'd go after a cultural site."

On Twitter, Trump said the United States has "targeted 52 Iranian sites," including "some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture," that he would consider blasting if Iran were to retaliate for the U.S. airstrike that killed Soleimani in Iraq. He later repeated the threat while speaking to reporters.

We rate Pompeo’s statement False.

Our Sources

Mediaite, "Mike Pompeo Falsely Claims Trump Didn’t Threaten to Strike Iranian Cultural Sites," Jan. 5, 2020

Donald J. Trump on Twitter, Jan. 4, 2020

The Associated Press, "Trump doubles down on striking cultural sites in Iran," Jan. 6, 2020

Department of Defense, "Statement by the Department of Defense," Jan. 2, 2020

UNESCO World Heritage List, Iran, accessed Jan. 6, 2020

The International Committee of the Red Cross, "Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977," accessed Jan. 6, 2020

United Nations Security Council, "Resolution 2347," March 24, 2017

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Pompeo falsely claims Trump did not say he’d go after Iranian cultural sites

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