[ by Charles Cameron — which cultural heritage sites did you have in mind, Mr Trump? ]
Persepolis, for instance?
The Golestan Palace, in the heart of Tehran? The Masjed-e Shah in Isfahan? The Hyrcanian Forests, or Lut Desert? I suppose Trump could bomb the Lut Desert without harming civilians, and wind would soon bring the dunes back into their miraculous order..
Iran has 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites all told.
Let’s just say that it took ISIS to destroy the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, and the Taliban to demolish the Bamiyan Buddha..
After an al-Qaeda affiliated group destroyed ancient religious monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012, the International Criminal Court took on a unique criminal case: prosecuting cultural destruction.
Though it generally focuses on human rights violations, the ICC charged the leader of the jihadist group, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, with a war crime for destroying cultural artifacts in Timbuktu.
The case was the first criminal charge of its kind. It “breaks new ground for the protection of humanity’s shared cultural heritage and values,” UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova said at the time. Al-Mahdi eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Okay, a precedent of sorts has been set.
BTW, Mike Knights suggests the “best way to make sure Trump does do something you oppose – say bomb cultural sites – is to engage him in a twitter war about it. The way insiders get him to forget about a course of action is to stop mentioning it.”
He did his PhD on “target selection and vetting,” and tells us:
It’s a very laborious, mechanical process for fixed sites, & there is a huge constantly-refined no-strike list. Judge Advocate Generals are involved in all target lists.
Sometimes POTUS crosses red lines and erases norms, sometimes not.
[ by Charles Cameron — Soleimani’s death prospects — does my title sound like the title of a Ludlum novel? Good! ]
I’ll do this all, or mostly, in tweets — things are happening fast enough that just watching my twitter stream is keeping me pretty busy.
Okay: there’s a whole lot of mirroring going on. Commenting on the assassination of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, President Trump tweeted:
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. The USA wants no more threats!
In both cases, we have threats, which we might say fall half-way between words and deeds, and which may also be pure bluster. It’s a thriller, to be sure, given President Trump‘s propensity to exaggerate in both speech and action.
Trump promises to blast 52 Iranian sites for the 52 American hostages held over 40 years ago. Does Iran respond by threatening 53 US sites for the US backed coup of Iran’s democratically elected leader Mossadegh in 1953?
Iranian military official Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan: “We will not enter into an all-out war with America under any circumstances and we will respond appropriately to the U.S. strike. Iran’s response will be based on wisdom and reason and will be deterrent and influential.”
No mirroring there — no ping-pong, no tit-for-tat, just restraint — an “appropriate” and “restrained” response.
But look, there’s more going on there — there’s death mirroring life. And if you’ll take a moment to break from national security concerns, death mirroring life is precisely what Jean Cocteau shows us in his great film Orphée:
“Soleimani has taught us that death is the beginning of life, not the end of life,” one militia commander said.
And that may be the wisest mirroring comment of all.. though Soleimani surely intended it in the context of that other quote I cited yesterday:
The war-front is mankind’s lost paradise. One type of paradise that is portrayed for mankind is streams, beautiful nymphs and greeneries. But there is another kind of paradise. … The war-front was the lost paradise of the human beings, indeed.
Mirrorings found, but paradise lost, I fear — not Soleimani‘s war-front, but its mirror-image, the paradise of hoped for Middle Eastern peace. That’s a mirror undone, when you consider the letter from Soleimani to the Iraqi PM that Brasco Aad tweets about:
raqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi: “Hadj Soleimani was in Baghdad at my invitation. He was scheduled to visit me and carried a letter with him from the Iranian leadership on how to de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”
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