Trump threatens Iranian cultural sites: A breach of civilized laws and conventions. An appeal to his nationalist Christian supporters.
Ordering or carrying out the destruction of cultural sites in Iran or anywhere else as a part of hostilities is unequivocally illegal under American and international law, reprehensible and worthy of condemnation, and unworthy of civilized nations.
This didn’t stop Trump from threatening such destruction multiple times in the past few days. This has led top civilian and military leaders in the administration, when asked about it, either to deny that Trump said it or to say that we would of course follow the law, though they never explicitly say the words “no cultural sites.”
This has been labeled just some more transgressive and unconventional bluster from Trump, spouting things he doesn’t understand and doesn’t really mean.
There is something else going on.
We begin with Iran, home of one of the oldest and culturally richest civilizations. It has 24 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with more under consideration (see picture above).
Persia was a Zoroastrian empire before being conquered by the Caliphate in 651 CE, when it became an increasingly Islamic nation, now 99% Muslim. Note that at no time has it been a Christian nation, which makes all of its cultural progress and heritage theologically “suspect” or “evil” according to some people.
There is little in that previous paragraph that Trump knows or understands. What he does know is that a portion of his most loyal supporters respond enthusiastically to anything that threatens people and their culture who are not American, not white, and not Christian (for some of those supporters, but only some, Jews get a pass because they are part of the pathway to a Second Coming).
That is why Trump threatens Iran’s cultural sites. It is possible, given his belief that he is the Supreme and Irrefusable Leader, that he thinks the military would carry out such an order. They won’t. Mostly, though, carried out or not, he thinks it shows that he is on the side of those nationalist Christian supporters. He is.