February 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

EU, UK Impose New Sanctions on Iran as Protests Surge

February 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

EU, UK Impose New Sanctions on Iran as Protests Surge

Latest Developments

The European Union and the United Kingdom on Monday imposed new sanctions to address Tehran’s brutal suppression of protests. The sanctions, which come in the wake of a fresh surge of demonstrations in Iran, target Iranian judges, lawmakers, and commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), among others. The sanctions also follow an announcement on Saturday by Iran International, a Farsi-language news channel, that it would relocate from London to Washington due to threats against its staff by Iranian agents. Nevertheless, the EU and the UK have stopped short of designating the IRGC itself as a terrorist organization, defying demands by the European Parliament and Iranian dissidents.

Expert Analysis

“The new sanctions against Iran by the EU and the UK are a welcome step, but Europe must go further. So long as the continent refuses to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization, Tehran understands that it can continue to repress its people and foment terrorism worldwide with relative impunity.”
Tzvi Kahn, FDD Research Fellow and Senior Editor

Protests in Iran Persist

After a brief lull, protests in Iran resumed in full force last week despite Tehran’s bloody response to earlier demonstrations. CNN reported today that Iran had established more than three dozen unofficial, clandestine detention centers where the regime tortured demonstrators. “I was given electric shocks at the back of my head, my neck and my back,” one protester recalled. “I remember vividly they electrocuted my genitals for several seconds.” The renewed wave of protests, however, suggests that the Iranian people remain committed to their cause.

Iran Targets the UK Media and Dissidents

The new UK sanctions stem in part from Iran’s efforts to target British media and dissidents. The head of the counterterrorism unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, said the MI5 domestic intelligence service had thwarted “15 plots since the start of 2022 to either kidnap or even kill British or U.K.-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime.”

In addition to targeting Iran International, Tehran has also persecuted the staff of London-based BBC Persian for years, threatening to arrest its journalists and seize their assets in Iran. In November 2019, Tehran threatened to snatch BBC journalists off the streets of London if they failed to resign their posts.

Designating the IRGC as a Terrorist Organization is Overdue

In January 2023, the European Parliament, by a vote of 598 to 9 with 31 abstentions, urged the EU to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. In the same month, the UK House of Commons unanimously voted in favor of a motion urging the British government to proscribe the IRGC. If these efforts succeed, the EU and the UK would join the United States, which designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019. However, the EU and the UK have failed to act, apparently in fear that proscribing the IRGC would undermine prospects for future nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

Related Analysis

EU and UK Impose Human Rights Sanction on Iran, but Not on Its President and Supreme Leader,” FDD Flash Brief

Maximum Support for the Iranian People: A New Strategy,” by Saeed Ghasseminejad, Richard Goldberg, Tzvi Kahn, and Behnam Ben Taleblu


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Politics and Economy Iran Sanctions Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Sanctions and Illicit Finance