U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday stood by his threat to go after Iranian cultural sites, warning of a "major retaliation" if Iran strikes back for the killing of one of its top military commanders.
The president, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, also threatened sanctions against U.S. ally Iraq after its parliament called on American troops to leave the country.
Trump and his advisers have been defending the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, whose death has escalated tensions in the region. Trump says Soleimani was planning attacks against Americans and said he would consider releasing intelligence reports that led him to direct the killing.
Asked about potential retaliation by Iran, Trump said: “If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation.”
Trump has said the operation was conducted to avoid war with Tehran and warned against further escalation, but he has employed tough rhetoric in public, tweeting that the United States had targeted 52 Iranian sites, some "at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture" if Iran struck any American or American assets in retaliation.