Secretary of Defense Mark Esper directly pushed back on President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to bomb Iranian cultural sites, telling the press that the US military “will follow the laws of armed conflict” that prohibit attacking civilian, cultural, and religious sites that have no military value.

In comments to CNN, Esper on Monday not so subtly contradicted Trump’s Twitter brinkmanship, a striking and ominous break between the Pentagon’s top official and the nation’s Commander-in-Chief just a day after the President reiterated his threats to attack Iran’s cultural sites. While Esper is a civilian appointee and not technically part of the military chain of command, Article 90 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes it clear that all members of the military have a duty to disobey any illegal or unlawful orders.

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