US Ambassador to SA 'warned of Iran threat', ANC urged to engage

Following the release of a disturbing United States (US) intelligence report that warns of an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the American Ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, the middle eastern country has come out and denied the allegations. 

There is increasing credence being afforded to the allegations, which were first reported by news agency Politico on Sunday 13 September, with Marks having been informed of the alleged threat. 

South Africa's State Security Agency said on Monday that reports of the alleged plot is "receiving the necessary attention".

Iran allegedly weighing up assassination of Lana Marks

Politico reported that a US state security source informed them that in an effort to avenge the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at the beginning of 2020. The assassination of the revered general nearly sparked a war between Iran and the US, with the former having launched missiles at the US's base in Iraq shortly after. 

Iran vowed to seek revenge for Soleimani, and many believe that the allegations of a plot to kill Marks fits the bill in terms of a target the Iranians may deem appropriate, mainly due to Marks' long standing relationship with US President Donald Trump. 

The pair have known each other for over two decades, with Marks having owned property in Florida's Mar-a-Lago resort, where Trump loves to spend time. 

The allegations have been made more plausible by the fact that Marks has been informed of the threat against her life in line with the US legal requirement – an intelligence community directive known as "Duty to Warn" – that states that any diplomat serving the United States internationally must be informed of any potential assassination attempt being discussed against them. 

The South African State Security agency is "speaking to relevant parties" but said that due to the nature of the threat, they will not be disclosing any more information at this time.

Who is Lana Marks?  

The 66-year-old Marks was born in East London, South Africa, into a family prominent within the Jewish community. 

Marks was given the diplomatic role of Ambassador to South Africa by her long time friend Trump in 2019.

She was sworn into office on October 4, 2019, having received a unanimous confirmation from the US Senate a month prior, and arrived at her posting on November 9, 2019, presenting her diplomatic credentials to President Cyril Ramaphosa on January 28, 2020.

By trade, Marks made a career out of producing some of the world's most expensive handbags through her Lana Marks brand. 

Iran deny allegations

Iran have denied the allegations, having told IOL that the allegations are "baseless". They are yet to provide further details though. 

"While I deny this baseless accusation, we will provide you with more information soon," spokesperson of the embassy, Hamid Reza, told the news agency on Sunday 13 September. 

The Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus) have called for the allegations to be taken far more seriously though. 

"The reports of a planned Iranian assassination of the American ambassador in South Africa, Lana Marks, are serious and the South African government must immediately take action to determine whether there is any truth to these allegations," said Corne Mulder, spokesperson for the FF Plus' international Relations Department. 

He called for engagement to take place between national government and their counterparts in Iran to engage and discuss the possible threat. 

"The FF Plus is calling on Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), to immediately summon and engage with Iran's ambassador in South Africa, Mohsen Movahhedi Ghomi, to determine whether there is any truth to these allegations," he said, adding that if the allegations have any truth to them at all, the American embassy "must be closed down immediately".

"The fact that various international news agencies have published reports on the matter means that the South African government cannot simply ignore it and will have to take action."

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