US to hit 52 Iranian sites if Americans attacked

US President Donald Trump on Saturday warned Iran that 52 of its key sites will be hit hard and fast if it attacks Americans over the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport on Thursday, reports say.

While quantifying the extent of possible US attacks, Trump was probably referring to 52 US embassy officials taken hostage in Tehran by radical Iranian students four decades ago during the Islamic Revolution.

The hostage crisis demanding the extradition of Iran’s last emperor, Shah Reza Pahlavi, lasted 444 days.

Washington wants to stop all threats from Tehran, Trump said in his tweet, adding that some important cultural sites in Iran may be targeted if its forces try to harm US interests.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hit back at Trump, saying targeting cultural sites is a violation of international law and a war crime.

In a tweet, Zarif wrote that Trump’s war threats are a sign of the beginning of the end of America’s malign presence in West Asia.

Iran’s Minister of Information Mohammed-Javad Azari Jahromi called Trump a terrorist in a suit. Like Islamic State, Hitler and Genghis Khan, the president hates cultures but he will soon realise that nobody can defeat Iran and its culture, Jahromi tweeted.

Trump’s warning comes soon after rocket attacks, above, (Photo credit: Iraqi Security Media Cell) hit Baghdad’s Jadriya neighbourhood, the nearby fortified Green Zone which houses foreign missions including the US Embassy, and Balad air base north of the capital hosting US troops.

Security officials said no one was killed in any of the attacks which, however, left five people injured in Jadriya neighbourhood.

Shortly after rockets landed in Jadriya, Green Zone and Balad air base, US Apache helicopters criss-crossed the skies over Baghdad in an attempt to identify the origin of the attacks.

No group has claimed Saturday’s rocket attacks but the needle of suspicion is on a pro-Iran faction in Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces.

The faction, Kataib Hezbollah or Hezbollah Brigades, warned Iraqi security forces on Saturday to stay a thousand metres away from US bases in Iraq starting Sunday evening.

On Saturday, the Hezbollah Brigades also sent a message to Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi seeking legislative steps for the immediate eviction of US troops from Iraqi soil.

Addressing a Majlis session in Tehran on Sunday, Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Trump has committed a crime equal to the 1953 coup by the US against Iran’s legitimate government led by Mohammad Mossadeq.