The Government's latest IRGC sanctions truly miss the mark

More sanctions will fail to achieve the desired goal of thwarting terror

July 07, 2023 18:43

As Iran continues to try to kill or kidnap UK nationals, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s assertion that the latest sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) guarantees that there ‘“will be no hiding place for those who seek to do us harm” truly misses the mark. 

Enhanced sanctions will fail to achieve the desired goal of thwarting terror and yesterday's announcement is simply a political manoeuvre to deflect attention from the Government’s inaction with respect to using the strongest legal tool available to them in exercising its duty to protect the public – proscribing the IRGC in accordance with the Terrorism Act 2000.

As the IRGC has been easily evading UK sanctions for years and has continued to grow, MPs have consistently called upon the Government to take stronger measures against them and proscribe the IRGC. 

Proscription carries a much stronger force of law as it criminalises even mere associations with terror groups. 

Proscribing the IRGC would legally change its status in the UK and make it a criminal offence for anyone to belong to the group, attend its meetings, express support for its aims, meet its members or carry its flag or logo in public, among other restrictions.

The criminalisation of the IRGC would severely hamper its ability to recruit and radicalise individuals in the UK, an activity which has increased substantially since 2015.

There is concern in Government that proscribing the IRGC, an extrajudicial and extraterritorial arm of the Iranian military, would result in designating the nation of Iran as a State Sponsor of Terror, thereby closing off lines of communication with Tehran. 

However, denying that Iran actively facilitates and sponsors global terror is denying the stark reality that the vehicle through which it does so is the IRGC, effectively using a State body to act outside the bounds of the law. 

MI5 Director General Ken McCallum’s statement of November 16, 2022 where he described Iran as the “state actor which most frequently crosses into terrorism” illustrates the Government's acute awareness that Iran poses a global threat, particularly in the UK. 

The Iranian Government has been behind 15 credible threats to kill or kidnap British citizens or UK-based individuals in the past year alone and there is no indication that increased sanctions, no matter how expansive, will prevent future attacks. 

Essentially, sanctions are a weak political tool with historically little impact and do not effectively protect the British public from the threat of terrorism.

In a cross-party effort, MPs unanimously voted in January 2023 to support a call to the Government to proscribe the IRGC with great urgency, reflecting the sentiments of British citizens conveyed through their elected representatives – Government must use all powers available to protect them, and what it has done so far is not enough.

It is time now for the Government to recognise that sanctions have failed and to proscribe the IRGC and bring the full force of British law to bear so that it can longer continue to act with impunity in the UK.

Elizabeth Samson is Associate Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society

July 07, 2023 18:43

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