NBC News published a story on Thursday that said US officials were briefed on a threat Pentagon leaders could face while on US soil. The report cites unnamed officials and makes a weak attempt to link the briefing to Iran, insinuating the threat could be potential retaliation for the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
The report cites five unnamed officials. The report says just “some” of the officials believe the threat “may be potential retaliation for the US military’s assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January, although the information provided did not draw a definitive link [emphasis added].”
The unnamed sources say FBI, CIA, and military officials were briefed on the threat after an incident involving an unnamed senior Defense Department official. According to the story, on September 22nd, a senior Defense Department official was followed by an unknown vehicle after leaving the Pentagon in a government-owned SUV.
The NBC story says the driver of the vehicle was an Iranian national and followed the SUV for five to seven miles before the Defense Department official’s security detail lost the car.
Notably, the story says the FBI and Pentagon disagreed about whether the incident was a real attempt to target a Defense Department official. The story reads: “The FBI investigated the incident and determined it was not part of any larger threat to senior military leaders or connected directly back to Iran, officials said.”
The Pentagon did not respond to NBC’s requests for comment. The CIA, FBI, and White House all declined to comment. The only comments NBC received were from three senior congressional aides, who said the “so-called Gang of Eight — the leaders of the Congressional caucuses and the intelligence committees — had not been briefed on the Sept. 22 incident.”
Fox News reported on the NBC report and said an unnamed Pentagon official verified the story. Although, the Fox report also says links to Iran and the Soleimani killing “could not reportedly be made.”
Fox also said no comments were made from the White House about whether or not the president was informed of the event with the vehicle.
Fox referenced a tweet from President Trump in September that mentioned threats from Iran to the US for the Soleimani killing. But the tweet was made on September 14th, eight days before the alleged incident with the vehicle. Trump’s tweet was written shortly after a Politico story claimed Iran is considering assassinating the US ambassador to South Africa in retaliation for Soleimani.
Politico cited unnamed officials who made the claim about Iran’s alleged plot to kill the ambassador. The story was published on September 13th. The following morning, South African officials told Bloomberg that they were surprised by the report and that they only became aware of it that day.
On September 14th, a South African intelligence source told the newspaper Daily Maverick that the plot was “not likely to be real” and that there was no “no discernible threat” to the US ambassador. This was confirmed on September 18th, when the South African government released a statement on the matter.
“At present, the information provided is not sufficient to sustain the allegation that there is a credible threat against the United States Ambassador to South Africa,” the statement said.