• gerard van weyenbergh

How international laws defend cultural places.

Iran is home to some of the world's most ancient historical sites. Among them are 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient ruins of  Persepolis, the grand mosque of Isfahan and the Golestan Palace in Tehran where Iran's last shah was crowned in 1967.

When, in a tweet on Sunday, US President Donald Trump threatened to target 52 Iranian sites, including some of cultural significance, if Tehran retaliated over the assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, it sparked an international outcry. Legal scholars, national security experts and politicians in the US and beyond, condemned the threat.

Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon distanced itself from it, with US defence secretary Mark Esper saying the military had no plans to bomb Iranian cultural sites.

On Tuesday, Trump appeared to retreat. Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, he said: "You know what, if that's what the law is, I like to obey the law. But think of it: They kill our people, they blow up our people and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions. But I'm OK with it. It's OK with me."

The threat prompted global condemnation, with allied countries including Britain immediately distancing themselves from it. But why are cultural sites so significant and why did Trump inspire such outrage?

Read article on Al Jazeera