Politico released a bombshell on Sunday, citing “multiple US intelligence sources” which said Iran was plotting to assassinate the American Ambassador to South Africa, 66-year old Lana Marks.
Apparently the report is based on slightly more than the usual ‘anonymous’ CIA officials, given this time Politico is citing a specific CIA global threats document, which says the planned future assassination is to be in revenge for the January US killing by drone strike of IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani.
Allegedly the Iranian embassy in Pretoria is involved in the plot, based on the CIA document; however, it’s also said to reference other options in terms of potential revenge scenarios.
The intelligence threat assessment appears to have come to light based on the CIA notifying Ambassador Marks, who has been at her post for less than a year. According to Politico:
An intelligence community directive known as “Duty to Warn” requires U.S. spy agencies to notify a potential victim if intelligence indicates their life could be in danger; in the case of U.S. government officials, credible threats would be included in briefings and security planning. Marks has been made aware of the threat, the U.S. government official said.
The intelligence also has been included in the CIA World Intelligence Review, known as the WIRe, a classified product that is accessible to senior policy and security officials across the U.S. government, as well as certain lawmakers and their staff.
Politico further cited sources speculating they think Marks was made a target due to her perceived personal closeness to President Trump.
The claims immediately sparked criticism and push-back from a number of independent geopolitical analysts, who noted that an ambassador to South Africa is nowhere near the stature of Soleimani, easily the most influential and powerful commander in the Islamic Republic, who further reported directly to the Ayatollah.
I have a hard time buying this.
Not because Tehran is done avenging the killing of Soleimani, but because a handbag designer turned ambassador is not on par with Soleimani, Iran’s foremost general.
I fear this may be the lead up to a October surprise.
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) September 14, 2020
There’s also the perception that the Trump administration does not want to get sucked into another series of escalating incidents with Iran, given the huge “unknowns” in such a gambit would likely hurt Trump’s re-election chances so close to November.