Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the biggest threat to Britain’s national security, Suella Braverman believes.
The Home Secretary is concerned by intelligence reports that Iranian spies are attempting to recruit members of organised crime gangs to target opponents of the regime and are seeking to step up their activities in the UK.
MI5 warned last year that Tehran had been behind ten murder and kidnap plots and in February this year the Metropolitan Police said it had risen to 15.
Last month Graeme Biggar, head of the National Crime Agency (NCA), warned that hostile states such as Iran were using organised crime gangs to carry out illegal activity in the UK.
This is thought to be because it is harder for them to get their own operatives into the country since the Salisbury poisonings in 2018. Two Russian military intelligence officers are suspected by the UK to have used a nerve agent to try to kill double agent Sergei Skripal.
A source close to the Home Secretary was quoted by The Sunday Times as saying: “The Iranian threat is the one that worries us the most.
“It’s a big issue because they are getting much more aggressive and their appetite is increasing. They are very defensive to anyone challenging their regime and just want to stamp it out. They are increasing their agitation.”
Iran International, a dissident TV channel, was forced to stop broadcasting from its British headquarters after Scotland Yard warned it could not protect staff.
Home office ministers led by security minister Tom Tugendhat have been pushing for the Iranian revolutionary guard to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
It has, however, been resisted by the Foreign Office led by James Cleverly because of concerns that it could do permanent damage to diplomatic relations.
Mr Biggar highlighted “the emerging links between serious and organised crime and hostile states” in a speech outlining the agency’s annual assessment of crime threats to Britain.
He suggested it was not only Iran but also North Korea and Russia. “North Korea has for some time used cyber crime to steal funds and more recently cryptocurrency,” he said.
“The Russian state has long tolerated and occasionally tasked the cyber-crime groups on its territory, and had links with its oligarchs and their enablers.
“And over the last year we have seen hostile states beginning to use organised crime groups – not always of the same nationality – as proxies. “It is a development we and our colleagues in MI5 and CT [counter-terrorism] policing are watching closely.”
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