What is Iran to do? The Trump administration has successfully rallied Sunni Arab nations against its hegemonic ambitions — so much so that they’re willing to even recognize Israel to keep US support in place against Iran. Its military adventure in Syria has settled into an endless quagmire, backing the unpopular despot Bashar al-Assad, who will fall the second Iran withdraws. Their heavy-handedness has Iraqis pushing back, even their Shi’ite allies. Their Hezbollah proxies in Lebanon are under fire for their corruption and mismanagement following the Beirut explosion.

With all of those problems in place, Politico reports that Tehran might try to pick a fight with the US as payback for the death of Qassem Soleimani. Reportedly, one option would be the assassination of an American ambassador:

The Iranian government is weighing an assassination attempt against the American ambassador to South Africa, U.S. intelligence reports say, according to a U.S. government official familiar with the issue and another official who has seen the intelligence.

News of the plot comes as Iran continues to seek ways to retaliate for President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a powerful Iranian general earlier this year, the officials said. If carried out, it could dramatically ratchet up already serious tensions between the U.S. and Iran and create enormous pressure on Trump to strike back — possibly in the middle of a tense election season.

U.S. officials have been aware of a general threat against the ambassador, Lana Marks, since the spring, the officials said. But 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, the U.S. government official said.

Still, attacking Marks is one of several options U.S. officials believe Iran’s regime is considering for retaliation since the general, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike in January. At the time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. killed Soleimani to re-establish deterrence against Iran.

Why Marks? Politico notes that she has been a friend of Donald Trump’s for decades. The idea, it seems, is to make this as personal as possible.

If true, it’s difficult to overstate just how truly stupid this idea would be. Regardless of whether Tehran considered Soleimani a legitimate target, he was clearly a military leader in the field. Soleimani’s forces and advisors had at the very least assisted in attacks on American forces in Iraq, and more likely conducted many of them directly. That made Soleimani a combatant in more ways than one.

If the Iranians wanted to consider that an act of war, they had the option and the opportunity to attack American military forces in reprisal. In fact, they did just that, firing a series of missiles against an American base in Iraq within days of the strike on Soleimani. (They also shot down a passenger jet, mistaking it for an American military flight.) Targeting a US commander in the region might also make some sense, if the mullahs want an escalation, or perhaps US naval forces in the Persian Gulf.

Assassinating an ambassador, however, would be insane, even by the standards normally applied to the mullahcracy. Not only would that put Iranian diplomats at risk, it would force practically every other country to denounce and sanction Iran. Even Russia and China might be forced to cut them off, or at least greatly reduce their contacts with the regime, as it would violate every norm of international diplomacy in place.

This is just a measure of how desperate the Iranian regime has become, and perhaps also a measure of how much they lost with Soleimani’s demise. The shift in US policy to take a hard line against Tehran’s mullahs has paid real dividends in the region, hardening the Sunni nations’ resistance to Iran’s encirclement. The economic sanctions reimposed by the US have not been universally adopted, but it’s bitten hard enough to make the mullahs’ lives miserable. They need a gamechanger to break the US grip on their throat, but … this ain’t it, sport.