Trump doubles down amid criticism over killing of general

US President Donald Trump makes a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida on Jan 3, 2020.
US President Donald Trump makes a statement on Iran at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida on Jan 3, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump is beginning to see the first signs of a political backlash over the killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani.

In the Middle East, the US-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been forced to suspend operations, and Iraq's Parliament called on Sunday for US troops to withdraw.

And despite US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's international outreach, there were few signs of strong support among key US allies beyond Israel for the action, while the Nato alliance planned an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss growing tensions in the region.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson summed up the European reaction to the strike on Maj-Gen Soleimani by saying that "we will not lament his death", but "we are in close contact with all sides to encourage de-escalation".

The US President also faces questions from lawmakers returning to Washington from the end-of-year break.

In the US, reaction to the raid has fallen mostly along party lines, with Republicans hailing the elimination of a leader responsible for terror attacks and Democrats questioning the administration's assertion of an "imminent threat".

They are also asking whether Mr Trump has a broader strategy or plan to deal with the aftermath.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, sent a letter to the chamber's lawmakers announcing a vote this week on a resolution that would limit Mr Trump's power in any potential military actions regarding Iran.

Despite the political headwinds, Mr Trump insisted on Sunday that Iranian cultural sites were fair game for the US military after threatening on Saturday to hit "52 Iranian sites", including cultural targets, if Teheran retaliates. In doing so, he dismissed concerns within his own administration that doing so could constitute a war crime under international law.


Speaking with reporters as he returned to Washington from his holiday in Florida, he doubled down despite international prohibitions.

"They are allowed to kill our people. They are allowed to torture and maim our people. They are allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we are not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Mr Trump said.

He also responded to the Iraqi moves to expel American forces from the country by saying: "If they do ask us to leave, if we don't do it on a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they have never seen before ever.

"It will make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2020, with the headline 'Trump doubles down amid criticism over killing of general'. Subscribe