David Rose

Iran is at the heart of Middle East’s chaos – here’s what UK can do about it

The Islamic Republic is preparing an inferno: it’s time to ban its terrorist IRGC


Military personnel carry the coffin of Qassem Soleimani at Ahvaz International Airport on Sunday morning

January 26, 2024 15:41

It was heartening to see that the BBC broadcast an item earlier this week about the antisemitic propaganda and calls for violence by senior commanders in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) that were piped online to students at British universities via the Islamic Students Association of Britain. The corporation was somewhat behind the curve, though. The JC revealed six months ago that the association, based at the Kanoon Towhid, a converted church in Hammersmith, had been organising these events.

Nevertheless, by repeating our story and showing clips from the talks, including claims that the Holocaust was “fake” and that viewers should join “the beautiful list of soldiers” who would fight and kill Jews, the BBC did the public a service.

Its report may also help to convince the Charity Commission to take action. The Kanoon Towhid is owned by a charity, the Al-Towheed (TUCR) Charitable Trust. Until November 2022, one of its trustees, Seyed Hashem Moosavi, was also director of the Islamic Centre of England (ICE), the central London mosque that has long been a hub for Iranian regime propaganda. Like the Kanoon Towhid, it is also being investigated by the commission, which issued an official warning back in 2020 after Moosavi held a vigil there for the IRGC terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani when he was killed by a US drone.

What’s not so heartening is how long these investigations seem to take. Just how much evidence does it need to shut such charities down, and just how hard can it be to unearth?

The question is all the more pressing given the critical role being played by Iran in the violent destabilisation of the Middle East. Still battling the Iran-backed terror group Hamas, Israel may well soon be facing a second, potentially far more devasting conflict with the Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. Behnam Ben Talebu, a seasoned Iranian security analyst at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies in Washington, was in London this week and, when we met for coffee, he told me that he considers the risk of escalation from the current, cross-border conflict to all-out war to be at least 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, there are the Yemeni Houthis, also an Iranian proxy, who are still trying to attack Red Sea shipping, apparently undeterred by Anglo-American airstrikes.

Linking every element of this descent into chaos is one organisation: the IRGC. Soleimani’s successors are responsible for funding, arming, training and to some extent directing all three terror groups. Hezbollah’s vast arsenal of rockets exists in part to deter an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, which is also controlled by the IRGC. Given that it includes precision-guided weapons with long ranges and huge explosive payloads, it is not alarmist to suggest that in the event of a full-scale war, we might see Israel’s air defence systems overwhelmed, and smoking ruins at iconic locations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Last week, the UK Government proscribed the jidhadist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation. This was both welcome and overdue: as we have revealed in this week’s JC, it has been responsible for a torrent of pro-Hamas, antisemitic statements and podcasts since October 7, and indeed, has been supporting the violent destruction of the Jewish state for many years. Proscription means it is now a criminal offence to express support for or belong to it, punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment.

Yet vile as it is, and likely to radicalise members to the point where they take up arms, Hizb ut-Tahrir has no arsenal of its own, and no history of mounting terrorist attacks against Israel or its allies under its own name. Yet through its proxies the IRGC very much does, and, as Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said last year, it has been plotting assassination attempts against Jews and opponents of the Iranian regime in Britain - which, thankfully, have so far been thwarted.

However, despite mounting pressure, still the government refuses to proscribe the IRGC - although if it did, much tougher sanctions than those deployed by the Charity Commission would immediately become available with regard to organisations such as the ICE and the Kanoon Towhid.

At the start of the week, PM Rishi Sunak was one of 20 Cabinet members - an impressive show of support in its own right - who attended a lunch hosted by Conservative Friends of Israel.

There was nothing wrong with his speech: he said the “sustainable ceasefire” Britain now wants in Gaza, to be followed by serious two-state peace talks, were dependent on Hamas being excised from power. Andhe said all the right things about the plight of the hostages still in captivity.

It was left to CFI’s honorary president Lord Polak to point out the inconveniently obvious at the end of the event. He thanked Sunak for Britain’s support for Israel since October 7, and for proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir. But it wasn’t enough, he told the PM: the time had come to take the same step with the IRGC.

“If you are proscribing Hamas and Hezbollah, they are the children,” Polak said later. “The parent body is the IRGC, who are supporting the Houthis. We are missing the main target.” Proscription, he added, “is the right thing and is supported across the House, Labour and Conservative.”

Yet still we hold back, while Iran prepares an inferno.

January 26, 2024 15:41

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