CIA: Iran seeks to assassinate US Ambassador to South Africa – report

An assassination of a US ambassador could undermine Trump in his re-election campaign or pull him into a new standoff.

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia, US (photo credit: LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia, US
(photo credit: LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
Iran is weighing an assassination attempt against the US ambassador to South Africa, Politico reported on Monday.
Citing multiple US intelligence sources and a CIA global threats document, the report said it would be the Islamic Republic’s preferred method of retaliating against US President Donald Trump’s assassination of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in January.
Although at the time Tehran took action by firing missiles on US army bases in Iraq, American casualties were low and most Israeli and US intelligence officials told The Jerusalem Post at the time that it was likely that there would be more attacks at a later date.
An attack now could also serve to undermine perceptions of US power as Washington tries to realign the Middle East against the ayatollahs following Israel’s normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The UAE and Bahrain are both ruled by Sunnis who want to work with Israel and the US against Iran’s aspirations to dominate the region.
An assassination of a US ambassador could also undermine Trump in his re-election campaign, or could pull him into a new round of conflict as he tries to show that he has put Iran on ice.
Politico said that US officials have been aware of a general threat against Ambassador Lana Marks since the spring but it added that details had become more specific in recent weeks, noting that the Iranian embassy in Pretoria was involved, although Tehran was also considering other options for retaliation.
Ambassador Lana Marks (Credit: US State Department)Ambassador Lana Marks (Credit: US State Department)
An intelligence community directive known as “Duty to Warn” requires US intelligence agencies to notify a potential victim if intelligence indicates that their life may be in danger and extra precautions are taken.
A US government official said Marks, 66, who took up her post last October, had been informed and the threat was listed in the CIA’s World Intelligence Review.
Iran has operated clandestine networks in South Africa for decades and Al Jazeera and The Guardian reported on them in 2015.
Politico’s sources said Marks may have been chosen as a target both because of her longstanding acquaintance with Trump and because an attempt in South Africa may be seen as easier to carry out compared to an assassination attempt in Europe, although Iran has carried out operations there in the past.
An attack on European soil at the moment could also undermine EU support for Iran’s position in its nuclear standoff with the US.