For several years, British parliamentarians – myself included – have been calling for the proscription of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation. That call has now apparently been heeded by Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is concerned by intelligence reports that Iranian agents are increasing their activities in the UK and are working with criminal gangs to target political opponents. She reportedly considers the IRGC to be the single greatest threat to the UK’s national security.
The US, prompted by similar concerns, added the IRGC to the State Department’s terror list in 2019. However, even that was far too late, given the IRGC’s well-documented sponsorship of terrorism since the Islamic Republic’s very earliest days.
In recent years, its role in brutally suppressing domestic dissent among the Iranian people has become increasingly apparent. In November 2019, Iran witnessed a nationwide anti-regime uprising. The unrest came less than two years after another uprising that the authorities blamed on the principal opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI).The IRGC received orders to quell the dissent and executed them with deadly efficiency, killing 1,500 protesters in five days. The massacre was reportedly by the PMOI.
Though outraged human rights groups and Western governments condemned the killings, there was, shamefully, no significant increase in international pressure on the regime. That inaction emboldened Tehran. In 2021 the notoriously hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, was appointed to the presidency. Meanwhile, the IRGC continued to tighten its grip on Iran’s social institutions and much of its economy.
As Maryam Rajavi, head of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, recently pointed out, the IRGC now effectively controls more than half of Iran’s gross domestic product and receives an ever-increasing share of the national budget. Scarce resources are diverted by the IRGC away from the Iranian people’s needs toward the financing of terrorist proxies and missile and drone programmes. Iranian Shahed drones are widely employed by Russia in its war against Ukraine.
The past year has demonstrated the brutal ruthlessness of that suppression, with around 750 opponents of the regime killed outright, mostly by the IRGC, since the start of Iran’s latest uprising last September. Those deaths have been accompanied by some 30,000 arrests.
Given the IRGC’s record, it is unsurprising that we should be concerned that its activities have extended within our own borders, its principal targets being Iranian dissidents, many of them UK citizens. MI5 reported last year that Iran had sponsored ten murder and kidnap plots in the UK, a figure later revised to 15 by the Metropolitan Police. The Revolutionary Guard’s commander-in-chief, Major-General Hossein Salami, has openly bragged of “how far the Islamic Revolution’s realm of power, field of infiltration and radius of influence has extended.”
The IRGC is now a major threat to British interests, both domestically and abroad. Its proscription is well overdue. It is suggested that this has not happened because of the need to maintain diplomatic relations with Tehran. However, robust and assertive policies, where necessary, are an essential element of the diplomatic toolkit. Continued inaction is not only morally wrong at a time when millions of Iranians are risking their lives by taking their cries for freedom to the streets, but also prejudicial to British domestic security.
The IRGC represents a clear danger, not only to the Iranian people, but to the security of the UK. His Majesty’s Government should curb its activities without further delay.
Rt Hon David Jones MP is the former Welsh Secretary
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