US intelligence reports revealed Iranian threats to assassinate Ambassador Lana Marks in revenge for top general Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad.
Citing intelligence papers, Politico said US officials have been aware of a threat against the ambassador since the spring, however the intelligence about the threat to the ambassador has become more specific in recent weeks.
The Iranian Embassy in Pretoria is involved in the plot, according to the report.
This comes as Iran continues to seek ways to retaliate for the killing of Soleimani earlier this year, the officials said.
"If carried out, it could dramatically ratchet up already serious tensions between the US and Iran and create enormous pressure on Trump to strike back — possibly in the middle of a tense election season."
A US government official said Marks has been made aware of the threat.
The intelligence also has been included in the CIA World Intelligence Review, which is a classified product that is accessible to senior policy and security officials across the US government, as well as certain lawmakers and their staff, Politico reported.
Marks, 66, was sworn in as US ambassador last October. She’s known Trump for more than two decades and has been a member of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
The Iranian government also operates clandestine networks in South Africa, the officials said, noting that it has had a foothold there for decades. In 2015, international reports revealed leaked intelligence documents that detailed an extensive secret network of Iranian operatives in South Africa.
Marks could be an easier target than US diplomats in other parts of the world, such as Western Europe, where the US has stronger relationships with local law enforcement and intelligence services.
Iran has a history of carrying out assassinations beyond their country’s borders, as well as taking hostages, including its attempt to kidnap Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, back when he was the Kingdom's ambassador to the US in 2011.
Although Iran has generally avoided directly targeting US diplomats in recent decades, but Iranian-backed militias have long attacked US diplomatic facilities and personnel in Iraq and Lebanon and other places.
Trump alleged after Soleimani’s killing that the Iranian general had been plotting attacks on US diplomatic missions.
“They were looking to blow up our embassy,” Trump said in January, referring to the massive, heavily fortified US diplomatic compound in Iraq. Later, in a Fox News interview, he said, “I can reveal I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.”