- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2020

A national security issue has become a cultural issue after President Trump suggested that sites of importance to “Iranian culture” and history could be on the list of potential U.S. targets as tension between the two nations continue.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion already sparked criticism from those who questioned the legality of the idea, or its strategic effectiveness from a military standpoint.

The 70-year-old National Trust for Historic Preservation — a non-profit organization which works to preserve America’s historic sites and buildings — has launched a public petition to protect such locales in Iran.

“The intentional destruction of cultural sites is a blemish on all humankind — a principle now enshrined in international law,” the Trust said in a statement, citing historic precedents set by those which worked to protect cultural treasures in Europe from the Nazi regime.

“Historic places around the world are part of the cultural heritage that belongs to all of us. We suffer a collective loss when places of cultural significance are destroyed in times of conflict or other disasters. Just as we were horrified when we witnessed the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas at the hands of the Taliban, or when we saw the flames consume the cathedral of Notre Dame, the loss of historic places in Iran would be a loss for people all over the world,” the organization said.

“When we destroy culture anywhere, we destroy culture everywhere. Take action today and urge the United States government to avoid targeting historically and culturally significant sites in Iran, and to uphold the protection of all irreplaceable sites in times of conflict,” the new petition states.

Museums also joined the fray.

“We must remind ourselves of the global importance of protecting cultural sites — the objects and places by which individuals, communities, and nations connect to their history and heritage,” said the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a statement.

“Today’s leaders and citizens have many profound responsibilities — protecting lives, and also protecting the precious legacy of generations before us, as it is from these shared places of cultural heritage that we gain the wisdom to secure safe and better futures.”

The idea of targeting Iran’s historic site “must be condemned,” noted the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on Monday. The Association of Art Museum Directors, meanwhile, also released a statement, declaring that it “deplores the tactic of targeting or demolishing cultural sites as part of any war or armed conflict.”

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