Defense Secretary Mark Esper is counting on President Donald Trump not to order the U.S. military to commit war crimes in response to any Iranian attacks in the near future.

Following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Trump warned Iran that the United States would attack targets that are important to Iranian culture if Iran retaliated.

CNN's Barbara Starr asked Esper during a news conference at the Pentagon on Tuesday if he would resign should the president order U.S. military strikes against Iranian cultural sites, which would violate various international agreements on warfare.

"I am fully confident that the president … will not give us an illegal order," Esper replied. "As I said, the United States military will – as it always has – obey the laws of armed conflict"

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(Screenshot via Sky News)

The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but after authorizing military force against Al Qaeda in 2001 and Saddam Hussein in 2002, lawmakers have been happy to cede all decisions to the White House on whether U.S. troops live or die.

Now, after an airstrike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, it's worth asking whether Congress will step in for oversight or sit back and watch as a new war festers in the Middle East.

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The seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the latest example of how tensions between the U.S. and Iran have spilled into one of the world's most strategic and vital waterways for oil. Since May, Iran has been accused of harassing and attacking oil tankers in the strait.

As the British government continues to investigate Friday's seizure, experts worry that it raises the potential of a military clash. However, they also say it offers a lens into Iran's strategy toward the U.S.

Here is a look at what's been happening and why the Strait of Hormuz matters.

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Fars News Agency

The Iranian military went from harassing the bejesus out of U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf during the Obama administration to effectively keeping its distance since the early months of the Trump administration, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose

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Photo by Muhammed Yusuf/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iran lobbed several missiles at ISIS targets in eastern Syria on June 18, the first time the regime has fired rockets at another country in three decades and a significant escalation of its military involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war, CNN reports.

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