Iran to close British embassy in Tehran and hit UK with fresh sanctions

Exclusive: Iranian officials revealed the news at a secret London meeting with gulf ambassadors


Iranian security forces stand guard outside the British embassy in Iran's capital Tehran on October 27, 2022 as students gather for an anti-Britain demonstration condemning the United Kingdom's support of London-based Iranian opposition TV stations and anti-government protests in Iran. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran is preparing to close the British embassy in Tehran as tensions rise over a plot to kill dissidents and Jews living in the UK, the JC has learnt.

The possible step was revealed by Iranian officials at a secret meeting with the ambassadors of Oman, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, we can disclose.

According to one of those present, Iranian officials told assembled diplomats that Tehran was also due to announce a range of new sanctions to hit back at Britain.

Shuttering the UK’s embassy in Iran could prove a significant blow to Western interests in the country, curtailing important espionage operations carried out by Britain, Israel and the United States, security sources have confirmed.

As Israel and the United States do not have a presence in Iran, they depend on Britain’s embassy to conduct intelligence work, the source said.

It follows a wave of sanctions announced by Tehran on February 22 against supposed members of the “UK regime” including Jewish News trustee Alan Jacobs. 

Listed alongside Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Matt Jukes and an array of military figures, the Iranian government identified Mr Jacobs as chairman of the Jewish Chronicle, a role he has not held since 2020.

The British embassy in Tehran has been a regular flashpoint in recent years. In December 2022, its walls were defaced by the Basij paramilitary militia with slogans labelling it a “terrorist centre”.

Tensions have risen between the Iranian regime and the UK after Iran International, a dissident Persian-language station operating from London, was forced to suspend operations earlier this month following a terror threat.

Speaking to the JC following the news, security minister Tom Tugendhat revealed that Iran is hiring organised criminals to spy on Britain’s Jews in preparation for a potential assassination campaign against prominent members of the community.

His comments confirmed a JC exclusive that the Islamic regime had “mapped” diaspora Jewish figures for a campaign of targeted assassinations. 

Mr Tugendhat, who is responsible for MI5, said: “You were right. We have very clear intelligence about the activities of hostile regimes in the UK and we keep a very close eye on what their agents and those close to them are doing.

“We know that the Iranians are using non-traditional sources to carry out these operations, including organised criminal gangs.

“They are paying criminal gangs to conduct surveillance."

A week earlier, Catherine Perez-Shakdam - who infiltrated the regime and met Ayatollah Khamenei - told the JC said the plans were designed to ensure “the diaspora would have a very nasty surprise” in the event of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

Discussing the threat to Iran International, the Met's Matt Jukes said 15 plots to kidnap or kill UK-based individuals seen as enemies of the Iranian regime had been foiled since the start of 2022.

In a statement, he said: "We also appreciate that talking to a media company about moving their operations from a particular location - even though it is due to grave safety concerns - is exceptional. The advice to relocate has not been given lightly. 

“The situation that journalists face around the world and the fact that some journalists face such hostile intentions of foreign states whilst in the UK is a challenging reality that we are determined to confront.”

After the channel’s relocation, Iranian Chargé d’Affaires Mehdi Hosseini Matin was summoned for a dressing down from foreign office officials. 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The UK will always stand up to countries who threaten our fundamental values of freedom of expression and the media. 

“I am appalled by the Iranian regime’s continuing threats to the lives of UK-based journalists and have today summoned its representative to make clear this will not be tolerated.”

A further eight sanctions were imposed on government figures, including three judges who imposed the death penalty against protestors and five Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders.

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