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Cross Party Alliance Calls For IRGC To Be Proscribed As Terrorist Group

Members of the Iranian paramilitary forces attend a speech by the Iranian Supreme Leader in Tehran. The Basij is one of the five forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) (Alamy)

5 min read

A cross-party group of MPs has reiterated calls for the government to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, a year after suggestions such a move could be considered.

In October Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei denied any involvement in the 7 October terrorist attacks on Israel, in which Hamas killed approximately 1,200 people and more than 240 were taken hostage. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, 17,487 Palestinians have since been killed in ongoing retaliatory strikes by Israel.

Iran has historically held close ties with Palestinian territories. According to a 2019 US government analysis, Iran provides Hamas, which controls Gaza, and other Palestinian terrorist groups approximately $100 million every year.

The IRGC was introduced in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution as an opposition to Iran's military, but there has been concern that it has morphed into an economic and political power, and has strong ties with Iran's Supreme leader. In January 2023 the Telegraph reported that Government was deliberating whether to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation, with security minister Tom Tugenhadt and then home secretary Suella Braverman reportedly in favour. 

In April 125 MPs – including more than 90 Tories – used an open letter to call for the organisation to be proscribed. Among signatories were Mark Jenkinson and Robert Courts who are now on the government's payroll. 

Pressure has now intensified after Houthi rebels in Yemen – which are also funded by Iran – have attacked commercial ships in the Red Sea since November.  

Former defence secretary Sir Liam Fox, Chair of the UK Abraham Accords Group, told PoliticsHome it was clear to him that the IRGC was a “central” and an indispensable element of the “malignant” Iranian state. He claimed there was no “clear” or “coherent” reason why the UK Government should not proscribe the IRGC. 

“They are an indispensable part of the Iranian regime. They have control over huge parts of the Iranian economy. They are complicit in the disappearance, torture and murder of opponents of the regime,” he said. “They are a key instrument in Iran’s destabilisation and terrorist proxy operations in the region.”

Fox also said if the UK proscribed the IRGC as a terrorist group it would make it “very clear” that Iran was responsible for “appalling human rights abuses”.

David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West, told PoliticsHome he believed the IRGC should have been proscribed "a very long time ago", particularly after the 7 October attack, and the disruption the Houthis have caused in the Red Sea in recent months. 

“It’s essentially a state within a state, it is a sponsor of terrorism right across the Middle East and the wider world. And it is highly disruptive," he said.

"The IRGC has proxies all across the region including Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis who are now involved in attacking our shipping in the Red Sea. It is a genuinely poisonous organisation and the West should make its displeasure felt."

In early January, a number of Conservative MPs including Robert Jenrick, Stephen Crabb and Theresa Villliers visited Israel to show solidarity with the country. During a visit to the Kfar Aza kibbutz which was a target of the 7 October attacks, they were shown a 47 minute film of incidents in the kibbutz attacks and elsewhere in Israel, made up of footage by the Israeli Government from social media, body cams, CCTV, and dashcams.

On 14 December a new sanctions regime on Iran was implemented, and gave the UK powers to disrupt Iran and the IRGC. The new sanctions included restriction of the country's drone programme and shipping. The government also put in place asset freezes on the IRGC Palestine Branch and named seven individuals who were subject to asset freezes and travel bans.  

Villiers, vice-chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, told PoliticsHome she believed it was time the UK Government proscribed the IRGC as a terrorist group after it has taken steps to heavily sanction them.

“The IRGC’s malign involvement with violent proxy groups is damaging and destabilising for the Middle East region,” she said.

“The UK Government has already applied sanctions to the group. Now it is time to take the next step and proscribe them, as called for by MPs across Parliament.” 

Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee told PoliticsHome he wanted to see the government proscribe the IRGC immediately. 

“The IRGC are agents of terror for an Iranian regime which oppresses at home and seeks to destabilise abroad. What more does it take for the UK to proscribe this malign group?” he said. 

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has told the House of Commons that Labour would proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation if elected at the next general election.

Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull North who is also a vice-chair of LFI, told PoliticsHome events in the last few months – whether it be in the Red Sea or terrorist attack in Israel – showed how “dangerous” the IRGC were. She claimed they had been “sewing destruction” and “supporting terrorism” around the world while repressing the Iranian people at home.

“One year ago, the government was reportedly preparing to proscribe the IRGC as a terror group – but since then there has only been delay and no action,” she said. 

“As people across the Middle East continue to suffer from the IRGC’s malign influence, now is surely the time to join our allies in the United States, Sweden and elsewhere in proscribing the IRGC once and for all.”

A government spokesperson said the UK Government will continue to work together with international nations and allies to "identify, deter and respond to threats from Iran".

“We will continue to take strong action against Iran while they threaten people in the UK and around the world. The UK has sanctioned more than 350 Iranian individuals and entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in its entirety,” they added. 

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