Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard set to be proscribed as terror group

American Age Official
The Revolutionary Guard was founded as an ideological custodian of Iran’s 1979 revolution but has since morphed into a major military, political and economic force in the country - Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Revolutionary Guard was founded as an ideological custodian of Iran’s 1979 revolution but has since morphed into a major military, political and economic force in the country – Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is set to be officially declared a terrorist group after 10 plots to kidnap or murder people in the UK last year, The Telegraph can reveal.

Tom Tugendhat, the security minister, and Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, both support the move, which is expected to be announced within weeks.

Officials have been building the case against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), with the security services understood to have shared intelligence.

Proscribing the group means it would become a criminal offence to belong to the IRGC, attend its meetings, carry its logo in public or encourage support of its activities.

It would put the body on a similar legal footing as Al-Qaeda, which perpetrated the Sep 11 2001 atrocities, and Isil, the Islamist jihadi group, showing how grave the threat is being treated inside Whitehall.

Similar steps have been taken by the US and Canada, two of the UK’s partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which also includes Australia and New Zealand.

It would mark a major hardening of Britain’s policy towards Tehran and could complicate attempts to secure a new deal to curb Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, with talks having stalled.

Ken McCallum - Yui Mok/PAKen McCallum - Yui Mok/PA

Ken McCallum – Yui Mok/PA

Ken McCallum, the MI5 director general, highlighted the Iranian regime’s threats to the UK in a rare public speech last November that included detailing past plots.

He said: “Iran projects threat to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services. At its sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime. We have seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone.”

Last month, Mr Tugendhat, seen as a key driver of the designation change, said that Iran had continued plotting against British targets despite Mr McCallum’s speech.

Last November, a Farsi-language television station based in the UK claimed that an Iranian hit squad operating in London was deployed to murder two of its British-Iranian journalists.

In a statement, the channel accused the hardline IRGC of targeting the journalists, who were not named. Scotland Yard declined to comment.

The IRGC was founded as an ideological custodian of Iran’s 1979 revolution but has since morphed into a major military, political and economic force in the country.

The group controls Iran’s elite armed and intelligence forces and has provided assistance to militant groups in places such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani - Brendan McDermid/ReutersIranian President Hassan Rouhani - Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Donald Trump, an Iran hardliner who pulled the US out of the original Iran nuclear deal, designated the IRGC a terrorist organisation in April 2019 when he was president.

The decision prompted fierce criticism from Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president at the time, who dismissed the claim and in turn accused Mr Trump of being a “leader of world terrorism”.

Last October, Canada banned IRGC senior leadership from entering the country, which impacted more than 10,000 officers and senior members, and promised more sanctions.

It was also announced the group would be classified under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, usually used in Canada for those accused of the most serious war crimes.

In recent years, shows of support for the IRGC, which would likely become illegal if the group is proscribed, have been seen on the streets of Britain.

The IRGC flag, with its distinctive automatic-gun insignia, was unfurled during an anti-Israel demonstration in Trafalgar Square on May 22 2021. One of the main Iranian news agencies reportedly played footage showing the flag.

The scenes prompted calls for prescription, including from Mr Tugendhat, who at the time was on the backbenches and chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee.

Stephen Crabb - Joe NewmanStephen Crabb - Joe Newman

Stephen Crabb – Joe Newman

Stephen Crabb, the Tory MP and parliamentary Commons chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said that the proscription of the IRGC would be the correct approach.

He told The Telegraph: “This would be a very welcome move. It is a step that a number of our key allies have already taken.

“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is playing a key role supporting and facilitating the Iranian regime’s destabilising activities in the Middle East and beyond.

“It is very, very clear that the international community needs to take much stronger and clear-sighted action against Iran.”

Lord Pickles, the parliamentary Lords chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “Proscribing the IRGC would demonstrate to Iran that it can’t be business as usual.”

Iranian politicians and officials have in the past rejected suggestions the IRGC is a terrorist group and defended its actions as a legitimate extension of the state.

The Terrorism Act 2000 gave the home secretary the right to proscribe an organisation if it is reasonably believed the body is involved in terrorism and it is proportionate to do so.

In total, 78 terrorist organisations have been proscribed under law.

A Government spokesman said: “While the Government keeps the list of proscribed organisations under review, we do not comment on whether a specific organisation is or is not being considered for proscription.”

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