Kasra Aarabi

This is clear evidence of how far Iran is going to infiltrate the UK

The government should designate IRGC as a terrorist group and target the regime’s elite

August 17, 2023 12:45

Details of the IRGC-linked conference involving British experts engaged in sensitive research and technological development reveals the extent to which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is now attempting to infiltrate the UK.

Since 2022, the so-called “International Conference of Research in Europe” (ICRE) has held two major annual events — its most recent in Tehran — with over 300 participants, including UK professors from Cambridge, Birmingham and Glasgow Caledonian University.

ICRE is no ordinary conference. Its director, Mohammad Hussain Ataee Dolat Abadi, is in contact with the highest security-intelligence circles of the clerical regime, who are openly seeking to procure sensitive research and technologies.

In January 2023, Abadi, a British citizen, personally met supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, where he received the ayatollah’s full praise and backing for organising the ICRE.

Until recently, Ataee Dolat Abadi was boasting to IRGC-affiliated news outlets about setting-up ICRE and bringing “world renowned professors to the scientific conference.” According to ICRE’s website, preparations were already being made for 2024.

However, following our investigation that revealed Ataee Dolat Abadi’s role in hosting senior IRGC commanders in his capacity as head of the London-based “Islamic Students Association of Britain” and “Union for Islamic Students Association of Europe”, ICRE organisers have attempted to destroy all traces of the conference, including its website.

This (failed) attempt to destroy the evidence is hardly surprising. An examination into ICRE reveals why.

The first thing to note is that ICRE is officially part of “Union for Islamic Students Association of Europe”, parent organisation of the Islamic Students Association of Britain.

As exposed a fortnight ago, these UK-based associations, which operate from Kanoon Towhid in Hammersmith, hosted eight online meetings with senior IRGC officials.

Three of the eight senior IRGC hosted by Ataee Dolat Abadi belong to the so-called “Habib Circle”: the regime’s highest security-intelligence circle, headed the supreme leader’s son Mojtaba Khamenei.

This evidence underlines that ICRE’s organisers are in contact with the most senior security-intelligence circles of the regime.

Moreover, all academic conferences inside Iran take place with the close coordination of Herasat intelligence apparatus — a network established by the Ministry of Intelligence in every Iranian university to act as the regime’s eyes and ears.

While the Herasat enforces stringent reporting processes for any Iranian student or academics participating in conference abroad, it proactively encourages inviting Western scholars to Iran to nurture relationships as a means to infiltrate universities in the West.

The next major red flag relates to the timing of ICRE’s formation. Writing for the JC, last month, I revealed a key agreement that gave the IRGC maximum access to Iranian universities and their global collaborations to procure military research and technology.

The strategic document — “The Comprehensive Act on Science and Technology in the Defence and Security field of the Islamic Republic of Iran” — was reached by the “Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution” (SCCR), the regime’s highest authority over educational and cultural affairs.

Co-signed by the IRGC’s commander-in-chief, the document is an operational plan for the IRGC and other bodies — including intelligence apparatus — to procure “soft, semi-soft and hard defence and security sciences and technologies” through “maximum effective collaborations with national and international [university] departments”.

It even lists the “main science and technology priorities for defence and security”, among them: “artificial intelligence”, “nanotechnology” and “cybersecurity.”

Since February 2021, the strategic document has implemented across all universities in Iran. Outside of Iran, however, it appears as though ICRE, which held its first conference less than 12-months after the strategic document was published, is being used as a procurement vehicle.

In fact, ICRE’s UK-based speakers and committee members include experts on precisely the science and technology “priorities” for defence and security as listed in the strategic document.

In addition to this, in January 2021, Ataee Dolat Abadi personally hosted IRGC-affiliated cleric Abdol Hossein Khosrow-Panah, the current secretary of the SCCR, which oversees the implementation of the strategic document.

The final cause for concern relates to ICRE’s formal ties to senior regime officials and oligarchs. Mohammad Marandi — an adviser to the Iranian regime’s nuclear negotiating team — is part of ICRE’s so-called “Scientific Committee”. The Marandis are extremely close to Khamenei, with Mohammad’s father serving as the supreme leader’s family doctor.

Likewise, Hadi Larijani, the director of Glasgow Caledonian University’s Smart Technology Centre, an expert in advanced computing and cybersecurity, was a keynote speaker at both the 2022 and 2023 ICRE conferences.

He belongs to the Larijani clan inside the regime and is the son of Mohammad Javad Larijani, an adviser to the regime’s brutal judiciary and former head of the regime’s self-styled “human rights council”.

Mohammad Javad Larijani — Hadi’s father — has been caught-up in multiple corruption and embezzlement cases: all of which were dropped by the regime’s judiciary, most notably its former chief justice Sadeq Larijani, his brother.

Hadi’s ICRE profile boasts that the Glasgow Caledonian professor has been awarded “over £1 million… grants” — perhaps a cause for concern given his oligarchic ties to the clerical regime.

How should the UK respond? The proscription of the IRGC is, of course, vital. We have proven the IRGC is active in London and why proscription matters.

But beyond proscription, the communication, presence and even citizenship of Iranian regime oligarchs and elites in the UK is deeply disturbing.

Like Putin’s Russia, Khamenei’s regime is an oligarchic, kleptocratic system that is corrupt to its core. While senior clerics and IRGC commanders violently enforce a hardline Islamist order on the Iranian people, their families — the aghazadehs in Farsi (nobleborn) — live lavish lifestyles in the UK.

The UK must immediately set up a taskforce to identify and sanction Iranian regime oligarchs, elites and proxies, just as it has with Putin’s regime.

August 17, 2023 12:45

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