January 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Calls to Designate IRGC as Terrorist Organization Grow in the UK 

January 19, 2023 | Flash Brief

Calls to Designate IRGC as Terrorist Organization Grow in the UK 

Latest Developments

Calls to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization grew in the United Kingdom this week after Iran executed a prominent dual British-Iranian citizen on Saturday morning. According to Iranian news sources, Iran hanged former deputy defense minister, Alireza Akbari, 61, after accusing him of spying for the UK’s MI6 — the British equivalent to the CIA. According to the BBC, Akbari’s execution came after he was tortured and forced to confess on camera, though he later recanted. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed outrage over the execution, while the UK Foreign Office “summoned” Iran’s chargé d’affaires in London — a formality that entails a meeting with host nation officials to hear complaints.

Expert Analysis

“British intelligence confirms that Iran threatened to kidnap or kill British citizens and residents on UK soil. It’s indefensible at this point to oppose proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Fecklessly summoning Iranian diplomats isn’t making British citizens any safer. The government should instead summon the courage to do what’s necessary and justified to protect the UK’s national security.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

British Intelligence Warns of IRGC Threats on British Soil

In response to Akbari’s execution, the UK imposed a travel ban on and froze the assets of Iranian prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, whom the British Foreign Office described as “one of the most powerful figures in Iran’s judicial system.” The UK summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires, and Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the British ambassador to Iran, Stephen Shercliff, to complain about what the Islamic Republic sees as interference in their affairs.

In his annual update in November, Ken McCallum, head of UK’s domestic security agency MI5, said that there have been at least 10 potential threats by Iran to kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as being enemies of the regime. Earlier that month, police warned two journalists in London that there were credible and imminent death threats against them by IRGC agents. In 2015, police discovered an Iranian-backed bomb factory in London.

Concerns Over Diplomatic Relations

The UK had been considering designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization prior to Akbari’s execution but was concerned that the designation would close the door on the stalled nuclear talks with Iran and lead to retaliation. Yet Tom Tugendhat, UK’s security minister, has long supported proscribing the IRGC.

“The state’s murder of another citizen shows the cruelty of the Iranian regime,” he tweeted on Saturday. “The Iranian regime threatens other British citizens even in the UK, as [the] MI5 head reported recently. We will defend our security.”

Broad Support in UK, Europe for Proscribing IRGC

On January 12, the UK House of Commons unanimously voted in favor of a motion urging the government to proscribe the IRGC. Six days later, the European Parliament voted in favor of recommending the IRGC be designated a terrorist organization by the European Union. The United States designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 2019.

Related Analysis

UK Preparing to Designate IRGC as a Terrorist Organization,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Caught Again Trying to Kill Israeli Civilians Abroad,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran’s Long, Bloody History of Terror and Espionage in Europe,” by Toby Dershowitz and Benjamin Weinthal


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Human Rights Iran Sanctions Iran-backed Terrorism Sanctions and Illicit Finance