SA's spooks fight the wrong battles

On the face of it, the news about an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate United States ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks makes for alarming reading. The Americans have long said their officials stationed abroad are always targets for radicals and terrorist groups and Washington regards the Iranian government as a terrorist state. And it has been expecting some form of retaliation for the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in January. The Iranians answered that with a barrage of rockets fired at US army bases in Iraq in what many international security experts...
On the face of it, the news about an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate United States ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks makes for alarming reading.

The Americans have long said their officials stationed abroad are always targets for radicals and terrorist groups and Washington regards the Iranian government as a terrorist state. And it has been expecting some form of retaliation for the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in January.

The Iranians answered that with a barrage of rockets fired at US army bases in Iraq in what many international security experts regarded as a symbolic, rather than strategic, act. The Iranians have denied any sort of plotting and have turned their focus on what they call American propaganda ahead of the November presidential elections.

That also has an element of logic about it, particularly given that the Americans have not always been correct, or even truthful, in previous campaigns against Middle Eastern governments. The classic example is the "weapons of mass destruction" charade, used as a pretext to invade Iraq in 2003.

On the other hand, there is concern in Western intelligence circles that extremist groups may have already established networks in South Africa and may be lying low for now because the country is regarded as a safe backwater. The fact that South African passports were linked to the London train bombings in 2007 is often used as evidence of the presence of terror group agents in this country.

Most worrying for us is that our own intelligence agencies may not be up to the task of identifying and monitoring threats to our own internal security, or to important foreign nationals, such as Marks, living here.

Our spooks have been used for the best part of a decade to fight ANC internal battles. So we are vulnerable.

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