Tensions in the Middle East may impact South Dakota

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Tensions continue to escalate between the United States and Iran as U.S. officials announced new economic sanctions against the country.

Previously, the U.S. military alleged Iran had fired a missile at another drone last week that was responding to the attack on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blames Iran for the attack on the ships; Tehran denies it was involved. (Source: MGN)

The sanctions come as a result of the Iranian attack on U.S. and allied troops in Iraq, in retaliation for a U.S. strike that killed Qasem Soleimani.

The affects of foreign policy may not always be apparent, but state lawmaker Michael Saba says problems that seem a world away can have a big impact, right here in South Dakota.

"I've been working on bringing trade delegation from that part of the world that buy a lot of agricultural products, and for that matter, technology," Saba said. "They've been affected by this, it's affecting the whole region."

Saba is concerned any progress he's made may be ruined by the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

"I do have two or three more trade delegations that are lined up," Saba said. "The last one came from Egypt, they are planning to come back again in February or March, but if this thing heats up even more they might not be able to come back, because of that region being so affected."

Former U.S. Foreign Service Officer Russell Hanks and Retired Military Intelligence Officer Bajun Mavalwalla both spent time oversea, and have first hand experience in previous U.S. Embassy rocket attacks.

"When I first arrived there, they were coming almost everyday for the first month," Mavalwalla said.

At a democratic panel hosted in Sioux Falls, Hanks offered insight into how much of an impact decisions overseas can be felt back in the U.S.

"Israel is there, one of our closest allies in the Middle East, ongoing disruptions to democratic efforts in Iraq, there are multiple reasons for it, and it does come home and play out in the streets of Sioux Falls as well as everywhere else in the U.S.," Hanks said.

Mavalwalla says military officials offer data to the commander of chief so they can make educated decisions and consider all possible outcomes.

"What we have to remember about people like Soleimani, is yes these are bad guys, these are guys that American blood on their hands, but you have to remember what happens after you take out this kind of target," Mavalwalla said. "It's not as simple as this is a bad guy, we go get him."

If tensions weren't already high enough, today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that the U.S. now believes Iran likely shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people.