Trump doubles down on striking cultural sites in Iran

(AP) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging House Democrats to move swiftly to rebuke President Donald Trump for undertaking last week’s airstrike on a top Iranian official without consulting Congress.

In a letter to Democrats, Pelosi says the House will introduce and vote this week on a war powers resolution to limit Trump’s military actions regarding Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the United States may target more Iranian leaders if Tehran retaliates for the U.S. killing of Iran’s most powerful general by striking Americans or American interests.

He says the U.S. plan is to target Iran’s “actual decision-makers,” rather than focus just on its proxy militias in Iraq and beyond. This was reflected in the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Friday.

Pompeo also isn’t repudiating a tweet from President Donald Trump that said the United States has 52 Iranian targets in its sights, including some important to Iran’s culture.

Trump issued the threat in a series of tweets Saturday evening as the White House sent to Congress a formal notification under the War Powers Act of the drone strike on Soleimani. The administration has also warned Congress, reports CNN, that Iran is expected to retaliate against the U.S. “within weeks.”

Trump repeated his assertion Sunday that cultural sites would be fair game as military targets if Iran carries through on its vow to attack Americans. He dismissed the view of legal scholars that attacking cultural sites would constitute a war crime under international law.

In remarks to reporters as he returned to Washington from Florida, Trump said Iranians are allowed to kill, torture and maim Americans. Yet, he asked, “we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way."

Trump also had harsh words for Iraq, whose parliament passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the expulsion of American troops. He told reporters that the U.S. wouldn’t leave without being paid for its military investments, then said if the troops do have to withdraw, he would levy punishing economic penalties on Baghdad.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, campaigning in Iowa, questioned whether Trump was acting alone or with the support of allies. He called the president’s tweeting "incredibly dangerous and irresponsible.”

Demonstrators in dozens of cities around the U.S. gathered over the weekend to protest Soleimani’s killing and the decision to send thousands more soldiers to the Middle East.

More than 70 planned protests were being spearheaded by CODEPINK and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, a U.S.-based anti-war coalition, along with other groups. From Tampa to Philadelphia, from San Francisco to New York, protesters carried signs and chanted anti-war slogans.

The groups said the Trump administration has essentially started a war with Iran by assassinating Soleimani.

Hundreds of U.S. soldiers have deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as reinforcements in the Middle East amid rising tensions.

Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, told The Associated Press that 3,500 members of the division’s quick-deployment brigade will have deployed within a few days.

Iranian Gen. Esmail Ghaani is now responsible for Tehran’s proxies across the Mideast as the Islamic Republic threatens the U.S. with “harsh revenge” for killing Soleimani.

US airstrike kills top Iranian general: an explainer

The tensions take root in Trump pulling out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Iranian state television reports that the country will no longer abide by any of the limits of its 2015 nuclear deal.

The announcement came Sunday night after another Iranian official said it would consider taking even-harsher steps over the U.S. killing of Soleimani on Friday in Baghdad.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. Gray Media Group, Inc., contributed to this report. All rights reserved.