Tony Blair Institute sets out case for proscribing Iran’s IRGC

Banning the IRGC will send clear message to Iran's clerical regime that terrorism and militancy will not be tolerated, says report

The IRGC, pictured on parade in Tehran, should be designated a terrorist group by the UK, experts say. Photo: Iranian Presidency / AFP
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The UK should proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) with immediate effect, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) has said in a report.

In the paper Making the Case for the UK to Proscribe Iran’s IRGC, the institute outlines a number of compelling reasons to proscribe the IRGC.

For more than 43 years, the IRGC has been responsible for plotting global terrorist attacks, hostage-taking and other offences on foreign soil — including in Europe and the UK — as well as human rights violations in Iran, the TBI report says.

It also states that since 2015, there has been a surge in IRGC activity in the UK, Europe and the US.

Most recently, MI5 last year acknowledged the real threat from Iran’s “aggressive intelligence services” to kidnap or kill UK-based people.

The report said IRGC-related propaganda efforts to nurture home-grown extremism on UK soil are also escalating and bear a similarity to those pursued by ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Radicalisation by the IRGC is said to include the dissemination of Islamist-extremism propaganda designed to recruit western citizens for terrorist-related operations, as well as activities in the UK promoting the IRGC and its ideology, including at mosques, charities and schools.

The report also states that the IRGC remains the biggest supporter of Hezbollah, a proscribed organisation in the UK. Efforts to restrict the latter’s activities will be undermined as long as this support goes unchecked.

The IRGC is committed to “armed resistance to the state of Israel and aims to seize all Palestinian territories and Jerusalem from Israel. It supports terrorism in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. These are the same grounds upon which Hezbollah was proscribed.

The TBI claims that indoctrination represents more than 50 per cent of the IRGC’s overall training efforts. The aim is to create more radical and committed generations — both members and their families — through indoctrination into what is, in essence, a militaristic and increasingly apocalyptic cult; this strategy appears to be paying dividends, the institute says.

“The IRGC fits all the criteria for proscription by the UK government under the Terrorism Act 2000,” said the author of the paper, TBI’s Iran Programme lead Kasra Aarabi.

“The IRGC is a violent, Islamist-extremist organisation that operates no differently to proscribed groups in the United Kingdom, including ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah.

“Formally banning or proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation will send a clear message to the clerical regime in Iran that the terrorism and militancy pursued through the Guard, including on UK soil, will not be tolerated.

“The move will also provide the UK government, civil-society groups and technology companies with a clear mandate to more effectively protect against home-grown IRGC and Shia-Islamist extremism and radicalisation through outright bans on activities linked to the Guard in the UK.”

Iran's plots against foreign officials and dissidents — in pictures

The report from the TBI comes a day after Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK would consider further steps against Iran after the execution of a British-Iranian dual citizen.

Ali Reza Akbari, a former Tehran defence official, was executed after being accused of spying for MI6.

However, Mr Cleverly stopped short of announcing that the IRGC would be designated a terrorist group amid pressure from MPs for such a move.

Mr Cleverly said he had held talks with Britain's ambassador in Tehran after the execution of Mr Akbari in Iran. Britain announced sanctions against Iran's prosecutor general at the weekend.

On Monday it was revealed that Tehran has refused to release the body of Mr Akbari.

Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, told the Commons that Mr Akbari was his constituent, and that he had been told by his family that the Iranian regime had refused to release and threatened to destroy his body.

The family has also been told the burial took place last week, Mr Slaughter said.

Mr Cleverly said the issues raised by Mr Slaughter “fill us all with revulsion” and said the government would continue to support the family.

The killing was “shameful” and Mr Akbari “fell victim to the political vendettas of a vicious regime”, Mr Cleverly said.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 12:01 AM