British government terror designations under review after Houthi attack

Yemen militia claimed drone attack, triggering UK questions about Iran's Revolutionary Guard

A pro-Houthi trooper shouts slogans in Sanaa, Yemen. EPA

The British government is actively examining whether to proscribe suspected Iran and Yemen terror groups following Monday’s attack on an oil facility and an airport in Abu Dhabi that killed three people.

A senior frontbench spokesman for the UK government in the House of Lords confirmed on Wednesday that the UK authorities were keeping it “under review” whether the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps should be designated as a terror group.

Lord Andrew Sharpe said he had read press reports that suggested Iran had been training both Houthi and Hezbollah drone pilots at a specialised airbase in Kashan, Iran, for attacks on the UAE and other Gulf states.

“The government regularly assesses the impact of the IRGC's destabilising activity throughout the region, including its political, financial and military support to several militant and proscribed groups,” the peer told the House of Lords.

This included IRGC support for Hezbollah in Syria, militias in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen.

“Such activity compromises the region’s security, its ability to prosper and escalates higher tension,” he added. Britain had already imposed 200 sanctions against Iran, including the IRGC in its entirety.

Drones claimed to have been operated by Houthi rebels, probably with Iran's help, struck Abu Dhabi International Airport. Getty Images

But Lord Stuart Polak pressed him and the British Home Office to “fully proscribe” the IRGC.

“The list of proscribed organisations is kept under constant review,” Lord Sharpe responded. “But we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for prescription.”

Britain has been under pressure to follow the US, which labelled the IRGC a terrorist organisation in 2019. Parliament’s Foreign Affair Committee also urged Whitehall to follow suit due to Iran’s state hostage taking in 2020.

With the IRGC’s continued backing of extremists, especially after the attack on the UAE, proscribing the group has come to the fore.

Lord Sharpe reiterated Britain’s support for the Emirates following the attack on the UAE.

“The UK strongly condemns the Houthi-based claimed attacks on the UAE,” he said. “We are in contact with our Emirati partners and have offered the UK solidarity and support.”

He also quoted a tweet from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss which said: “I condemn in the strongest terms the Houthi claimed terrorist attacks on the UAE.”

Lord Alan West, a former Labour minister and head of the Royal Navy, raised the possibility of Iran having the capability to produce a nuclear bomb in weeks and the requirement to restore the nuclear agreement with Tehran.

“We need discussions to try to stop what is rapidly rushing towards a situation where there will be a war in the Middle East as well as one in Ukraine,” he said.

Updated: January 19, 2022, 5:42 PM