The British government is edging slowly toward declaring the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Last week, members of the House of Commons voted in favor of such a measure. Then, on Saturday, a British-Iranian dual national, Alireza Akbari, who was Iran’s deputy defense minister nearly 20 years ago, was executed by the Iranian state.

The execution was a shot across the bows. The Iranian authorities declared Akbari a spy for British intelligence, part of a broader UK effort to undermine Iran’s civil fabric and overturn the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Britain has, since that time, exercised a surprisingly large influence on the regime’s imagination, with the political and clerical classes dedicating much of their energy and rhetoric to announcing the discovery of British schemes and plots, almost all of which they appear to have made up.

The execution has incensed British policymakers. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that Akbari’s killing would not go without a response and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described his dismay and condemnation. It is possible that, rather than getting Britain to back off, this unwarranted action will push the country over the line into banning the IRGC wholesale.

Such a move — as the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of this week — would be entirely justified.

The IRGC is not an arm of the Iranian state, but rather a force within the state. A combination of religious police and international terrorist group, the IRGC represses Iranian protesters at home and conducts widespread sectarian warfare abroad.

Its foreign operations branch, the Quds Force, achieved its greatest notoriety under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani before his death in 2020. Under Soleimani, the Quds Force raised sectarian militias in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen; fought in those countries’ domestic political battles and civil wars; murdered political opponents and protesters; and did so largely without international censure or sanction.

Soleimani himself became a celebrity and a symbol, touring battlefields, directing violent reprisals — including the barbaric siege of Aleppo and the taking of Kirkuk from the Iraqi Kurds — until he became such a nuisance that the US had him killed. He was on his way to meet, and give orders too, Iraq’s prime minister when he was killed. American President Donald Trump called him the world’s biggest terrorist after his death — something that was objectively true.

Since Soleimani’s death, the IRGC has been led by less famous men, but its acts of terrorism have continued. It has spent much of this decade either directly killing or ordering its militia cutouts to kill political figures and journalists in Lebanon and Iraq. The Iraqi dead include Hisham Al-Hashimi, while among the Lebanese is the journalist Lokman Slim. This is international terrorism by definition.

So too is the newest stage of the IRGC gameplan: Plotting the murder of Iranian dissidents and perceived enemies of the regime on the streets of Europe and the Americas. The US Department of Justice has notified regime critics like John Bolton and Masih Alinejad that they were the target of assassination plots organized by the IRGC in recent years.

In Britain, members of critical media outlets like Iran International have been told by police that the IRGC has attempted to kill them — by hiring gangsters and hitmen, and by staking out their offices and homes.

If this is not terrorism, nothing is. Just because these efforts have so far proven unsuccessful, this does not mean these assassination plots are not terroristic in nature.

The UK and other countries are already overstretched fending off terror plots hatched by proscribed organizations like Al-Qaeda, Daesh and the domestic far right. If Iranian IRGC forces and their proxies engage in the same behavior, they must be labeled as terrorist and sanctioned accordingly.

Much of the world is wrestling with similar questions. Australia is home to a lively debate on the same subject. As the demonstrations in Iran continue into a fifth month, the essential violent influence of the IRGC is more definitely felt. Its members are the regime’s bodyguards and its hired thugs. They torture and kill. They do little else.

As IRGC forces import militiamen to fight and brutalize civilians themselves, countries across the world are reassessing the Revolutionary Guards. These countries now see the IRGC not as an unconventional arm of the Iranian state, but as a military element within Iran beholden to its own violent history and internal logic. An armed group, in other words, not a legitimate national military.

As that armed group continues to commit and to plan terrorist acts abroad, it is only reasonable that countries like Britain reconsider their views of the IRGC. It will never be a normal military behaving in a legitimate way. The inescapable conclusion is that Iran’s regime has a terrorist organization — and little else — keeping it in power.

Source » arabnews