The most charitable thing that can be said about the Government’s reported plan to proscribe Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group is that it is better late than never. Ever since its creation in the aftermath of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been pivotal to the regime’s malign efforts to expand its influence overseas.

For the past four decades, the organisation has been involved in some of the world’s worst terrorist atrocities, from the suicide truck bombing of the American and French military compounds in Beirut in 1983, killing 307 people, to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in which 86 people died.

More recently, British military personnel acquired first-hand knowledge of the IRGC’s brutality during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. They found themselves fighting a proxy war against Iranian-backed militias controlled by Qasem Soleimani, the powerful head of the movement’s Quds Force.

Soleimani, who was said to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service personnel in Iraq, was killed by an American drone strike three years ago personally authorised by former US President Donald Trump. Nor has the IRGC’s violence been confined to its foreign activities. As custodians of Iran’s Islamic revolution, it has been in the vanguard of the violent crackdown against anti-government protesters.

This has, in recent months, resulted in hundreds of deaths – many of them women and children – while an estimated 18,000 Iranians are now said to be languishing in detention camps as part of the regime’s crackdown on dissent.

The IRGC’s inhumane treatment of anti-regime activists was highlighted by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during her stint as a guest editor on the BBC’s Today programme over the festive period. She movingly described the time she was held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, which holds political activists detained on the IRGC’s orders. She described how, for the first six months of her incarceration, she was held in solitary confinement. When the authorities eventually decided to ease her conditions, they gave her a television tuned to a state propaganda channel and a sports outlet, assuming that she would have no interest in watching either. Zaghari- Ratcliffe had the last laugh, though, as she was able to watch Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph in 2016. Yet, while the litany of crimes committed by the IRGC during the past 40 years are well-documented, there has been a marked reluctance on the part of the British authorities to view the organisation in the same light as other prominent Islamist militant groups, such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Rather than designating the group as a terrorist organisation, as the Trump administration did in 2019, Whitehall preferred to hedge its bets in the hope that, by avoiding a direct confrontation with Tehran, it might be possible to maintain a constructive dialogue with the ayatollahs that might result in them adopting a less aggressive stance towards the West.

There is nothing new about this naive approach. I remember Sir Geoffrey Howe, the then foreign secretary, telling me during the height of the Lebanese hostage crisis in the 1980s, when the likes of Terry Waite and John McCarthy were being held in dank cells in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, chained to radiators, that it was important to keep a channel open to the moderates in the Iranian regime.

It later transpired these same “moderates” had been instrumental in orchestrating the hostage crisis in the first place. This week’s Telegraph report that the Government is finally giving serious consideration to designating the IRGC as a terrorist organisation is therefore as welcome as it is overdue. It appears that the Whitehall security establishment has finally been forced to overcome its reluctance to confront the true nature of the group’s activities because of the undeniable upsurge in the number of the IRGC’s terror plots on the UK mainland. According to Ken McCallum, the MI5 director general, there have been at least 10 IRGC-orchestrated terror plots to kidnap or murder people in the UK in the past year.

Among the targets has been a Farsi-language television station based in West London, which was given round-the- clock police protection to thwart an Iranian plot to kill two of the channel’s journalists. The recent escalation in Iranian terrorist activity in the UK also needs to be seen against the background of Tehran’s increased involvement in the Ukraine conflict, where the Russians are using Iranian-made drones to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

Iran’s drone technology was developed under the auspices of the IRGC, which is why the US Treasury Department has responded by imposing sanctions against a number of Iranian companies linked to the IRGC. The fact that Britain, too, now appears willing to hold the IRGC to account for its actions will help to reinforce the message to Iran that the West is no longer prepared to turn a blind eye to its nefarious activities.