Reported US ambassador attack should not be taken seriously, say experts

The report of a possible attack targeting the US ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, allegedly by Iranians, could have more to do with Donald Trump's electioneering and therefore should not be taken seriously, say political experts. SA, with friendly relations with Iran, could be caught in the middle of another war between the old foes after Iran indicated its intention to retaliate over the killing of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack in January. It shocked everyone when the US announced that Marks was targeted for assassination by the Iranians. Others expressed concern that American foreign...
The report of a possible attack targeting the US ambassador to South Africa, Lana Marks, allegedly by Iranians, could have more to do with Donald Trump's electioneering and therefore should not be taken seriously, say political experts.

SA, with friendly relations with Iran, could be caught in the middle of another war between the old foes after Iran indicated its intention to retaliate over the killing of its top general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack in January. It shocked everyone when the US announced that Marks was targeted for assassination by the Iranians. Others expressed concern that American foreign policy put the sovereignty of other countries in danger.

Wits University's Professor John Stremlau, an expert on US-Africa relations, China and international politics and relations, said anything emanating from the administration of Donald Trump should be taken with a pinch of salt since he was prone to deflect attention away from his own troubles.

Stremlau, a critic of the Trump administration, said until investigations and SA authorities confirmed the threat, it should not be taken seriously. There was a lot of disinformation coming from US intelligence which, he said, was highly politicised and factionalised.

Also read: Ambassador assassination plot: SSA assures her safety, while Iran dismisses media reports

Other observers said Iran's threatened retaliation did not mean only Tehran could carry it out, as Washington had many enemies. Opportunistic attacks could happen without necessarily being authorised by Iran.

The Trump factor sentiments were also voiced by University of Johannesburg's politics professor Siphamandla Zondi, who said it could be anyone, including Trump, who might be attempting to boost his standing in the November presidential election.

Zondi said the Iranian government was unlikely to risk jeopardising its good relations with SA by launching an attack against a target inside a country with which it enjoyed cordial relations.

"I doubt if Iran is involved. It would be very odd to do that in South Africa because that would be an attack against this country's sovereignty. I don't think that Iranians would like to isolate themselves any further because that would damage their relations with SA.

"Such attack or plot of attack could be done by any armed group that has nothing to do with Iran, but that wants to harm the US for its own reasons," Zondi said.

He said extremist groups could choose a target anywhere in the world and South Africa could be the launching pad.

ericn@citizen.co.za

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