Kasra Aarabi

Proscribing the IRGC will be Starmer’s first real test

Sir Keir will have to overcome Whitehall’s fear of being labelled Islamophobic for doing so


Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military personnel parade under an Iranian Kheibar Shekan Ballistic missile in Tehran during a rally commemorating the International Quds Day, also known as the Jerusalem day, on 29 April 2022. (Photo by Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto)

June 19, 2024 11:36

The Labour Party has pledged to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and, if elected, this will be Sir Keir Starmer’s first real policy test on antisemitism. The IRGC is the most antisemitic armed Islamist group in the world. “But what about Hezbollah and Hamas?” you ask.

Jeremy Corbyn’s infamous “friends” are the IRGC’s offspring. It created Hezbollah and co-opted Hamas. Think of the IRGC as the Godfather of these two proscribed UK terrorist groups – and today it operates as their biggest supporter militarily, financially and ideologically.

Yet Whitehall bureaucrats seem to be asleep at the wheel when it comes to recognising the nature of the IRGC, its violent Islamist extremist and antisemitic activities and how proscription would inhibit their ability to operate in Britain.

The IRGC is not a conventional nation-state armed force. Its purpose is not to defend Iran. Its senior leadership have clearly spelled this out, stating: “We are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran is not even in our name.” Instead, the IRGC recognises itself as an armed Islamist organisation with “an ideological mission of jihad in God’s way to spread sharia law across the world.”

In pursuit of creating an expansionist Islamic state, the IRGC operates no differently from proscribed Islamist terrorist groups such as Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. Like these Sunni and Shia jihadists, it dedicates a significant amount of resource and time on radicalising its members and their families in a violent, Islamist extremist ideology. As my research has revealed, the internal training manuals used as part of its formal programme of indoctrination teach its recruits to wage armed jihad on Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians on the basis that they have “unacceptable faith” and must either convert to Islam or be killed. These textbooks also teach its members that Iranians who oppose the Islamist regime are “waging war on God” (moharebs) and should be tortured prior to their death. IRGC-affiliated clerics even use religious scripture to legitimise the rape of female prisoners and hostages.

These are not empty words. The IRGC’s modus operandi has been clear for more than 45-years: terrorism, hostage-takings and hijackings. The past few years have seen the IRGC significantly increase its terrorist operations on British soil, primarily targeting the British-Iranian diaspora (my community) and British Jews. In 2022 alone, more than 16 terror plots were foiled in the UK. My best friend, British-Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati, who was stabbed four times in Wimbledon, wasn’t so lucky.

But these direct attacks are only part of its strategy in the UK. The IRGC is also nurturing homegrown Islamist radicalisation and terrorism in Britain using tactics identical to Isis and al-Qaeda. I recently obtained and exposed via the JC videos of eight senior IRGC commanders hosted online by London-based entity the Islamic Students Association of Britain and Europe. These commanders glorified IRGC terrorism, propagated extreme antisemitism and called on British Muslim students to join their apocalyptic army that will “end the lives of Jews everywhere”.

Iran’s regime has multiple centres, mosques and schools – all with tax-free UK charity status – that conduct Islamist extremist and antisemitic radicalisation activities, identical to what we saw with Isis and al-Qaeda. But unlike Isis and al-Qaeda, which are proscribed, the current sanctions regime on the IRGC does not prohibit its jihadi propaganda activities.

Proscribing the IRGC would fundamentally change this. It would also equip local communities – the police and teachers – with the tools to identify and prevent IRGC and Shia radicalisation. Currently Prevent is exclusively focused on Sunni jihadism, so IRGC radicalisation is a blind spot.

If there’s one thing the so-called “pro-Palestinian” weekly marches in London have revealed it’s the illiteracy of authorities when it comes to identifying Islamist extremists. Not only has the government failed to proscribe the IRGC, but the centres carrying out its radicalisation activities are still open. The main reason for this, I’ve been told, is that while civil servants recognise the Islamist extremist nature of the activities, they are hesitant to take firm action against these centres and mosques for fear of being labeled “Islamophobic” – a label that would end their careers in Whitehall.

So let me be clear: Islamists (not Muslims) pose an immediate threat to British identity, values and security, from their antisemitic intent to eradicate Israel to their misogynistic views on women and, most importantly, their focus on establishing an expansionist Islamic state and justification of the use violence (armed jihad) to achieve it.

Calling out Islamists is not Islamophobic. The main victims of Islamists are secular Muslims. Overcoming this illiteracy on the threat from Islamism will be a challenge for Labour, which, evidently, still feels very uncomfortable talking about radical Islam. There is no doubt the Labour Party has changed, from a time when its former leader would condemn targeting the IRGC to today, when Starmer has pledged to proscribe it.

But as my former boss Sir Tony Blair used to say: being in opposition is the easy part. Starmer has done well to combat antisemitism in his party. But, if elected, he’ll be required to take this fight to the national level. And his first real test on this issue will be proscribing the IRGC.

Kasra Aarabi is the director for IRGC Research at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI)

June 19, 2024 11:36

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