Britain is being urged to expel Iranian diplomats after politicians in Westminster were said to have been put on alert over possible cyberattacks from the regime.
MPs have reportedly been urged to improve the security of their mobile devices in a letter that warned of Tehran’s “strong offensive cyber capabilities”.
Jason Brodsky, policy director of the United Against Nuclear Iran (Uani) advocacy group, told The National that the UK’s response to Iranian threat has been sluggish thus far as he called for efforts to be stepped up. The US-based organisation has a stated aim of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
He said it is now “very important” that the UK should designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
The speakers of the UK’s House of Commons and the House of Lords wrote to politicians on November 21 warning them to “stay vigilant” against potential attacks from Iranian operatives, according to CNN.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Lord McFall said police and intelligence agencies had not detected “any hostile Iranian activity specifically focused on parliamentarians”. However, given recent threats allegedly made against Iranian citizens in the UK who are “perceived as enemies of the regime … this is a good opportunity to remind you all to stay vigilant”, the letters said.
“The Iranian agencies have strong offensive cyber capabilities,” the letters added.
“We provide advice to users ― including members of both Houses ― to make them aware of the risks and how to manage their digital safety, however we do not comment on specific details of our cyber or physical security policies or incidents,” a statement from the parliamentary authorities said.
Mr Brodsky called the letter “concerning” and said the perceived threats “demonstrate the permissive environment that Europe, the EU and the UK have afforded to the Iranian regime”.
He cited recent threats made by the IRGC towards journalists at Iran International, a London-based TV station. The Metropolitan Police responded by sending armed officers to guard the newsroom.
Mr Brodsky, an experienced Middle East analyst, said police had responded in a responsible manner, but suggested the UK government had failed to address threats in a serious manner.
“I think there has been a really sluggish response,” he said, adding that stepping up action is “very urgent”.
“The UK needs to downgrade Iran’s diplomatic presence. It currently has between 10 and 15 people in London and that’s not to mention that the Iranian supreme leader has a representative in the UK as well. A platform has been afforded to the highest authority in Iran while they are planning terrorist activities against the UK.”
Since January, UK intelligence services have revealed at least 10 specific threats against dissidents living in Britain “who don’t toe [Tehran’s] line”.
MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said last month that Tehran “projects a threat to the UK directly through its aggressive intelligence services”.
After staff at Iran International were sent death threats by authorities in Tehran, James Cleverly, the UK’s foreign secretary, summoned the most senior Iranian diplomat in Britain.
Aliasghar Ramezanpour, executive editor of the channel, told The National that he and his staff feel like they are “working in a war zone”.
Mr Cleverly promised that Britain would “always stand up to threats from foreign nations”.
But Mr Brodsky said such a meeting hardly suffices when responding to Iranian threats.
“A summons from the Foreign Office is not going to cut it,” he said.
An official for the UK Parliament said the cyber and physical security of lawmakers is taken “extremely seriously”.
They declined to comment on the letter sent to politicians.
“We have robust measures in place and work closely with partners across government, including the National Cyber Security Centre,” the official said.
“We provide advice to users — including Members of both Houses ― to make them aware of the risks and how to manage their digital safety. However we do not comment on specific details of our cyber or physical security policies or incidents.”