Today’s shocking revelation that a UK entity has hosted some of the most violent, extremist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders, must be the final straw for the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation — no ifs or buts.
Opponents of proscription — including some Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office officials — have consistently claimed that proscribing the IRGC would merely be symbolic, with no practical impact.
This is simply not true.
Existing sanctions on the IRGC do not prohibit the IRGC’s propaganda activities and its ability to radicalise and even recruit British nationals for terror operations.
In the past few years, we have witnessed a significant rise in IRGC-related violent Islamist extremist activity in the UK. From vigils for IRGC terrorists at the Islamic Centre of England in Maida Vale to the recording of a propaganda anthem at a children’s school in Kilburn.
However, none of these even come close to the activities of the London-based Islamic Students Association of Britain, which, as revealed today, has been hosting events with senior IRGC commanders, propagating and glorifying its terrorism.
This little-known entity operating from its “Kanoon Towhid” centre in London’s Hammersmith, just a mile from a synagogue, is part of the clerical regime’s official Islamic Students Association network that is controlled by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei through his official representatives.
There is a total of 40 official Islamic Student Associations across Europe, reporting directly back to the Office of the Supreme Leader.
In fact, the head of the UK’s branch, Bradford University graduate Mohammad Hussain Ataei Dolat-Abadi, who also heads the overarching Islamic Students Association of Europe, personally met with Khamenei in January, where the supreme leader praised him for carrying out the regime’s “mission abroad”.
From the list of IRGC officials and activities hosted by Dolat-Abadi and his organisation, there should be no doubt that this UK-based entity is glorifying IRGC terrorism and its violent Islamist extremist ideology.
But the worst is still to come.
Deeper background checks into the profiles of the senior IRGC officials it has hosted online to speak to British Muslim students reveals why there is added urgency for the UK to proscribe the IRGC immediately.
Of the eight IRGC officials who have addressed British students, three are particularly alarming.
Saeed Ghasemi is a senior commander of the IRGC’s notorious “Plainclothes Unit” (lebas shakhsees).
In Iran, Ghasemi is known as one most violent and extremist commanders of the unit, which plays a leading role in the brutal suppression of anti-regime protests in Iran: secretly detaining, torturing and executing Iranian civilians.
Since the early 1990s, he has also had a commanding role in the IRGC’s terrorist operations abroad. In 2019, Ghasemi even boasted about how he and the IRGC secretly trained al-Qaeda terrorists during the Bosnian War, using Islamic Crescent outfits — equivalent to the Red Cross — as their disguise.
In recent years, Ghasemi, who told British Muslim students of the regime’s intent to “go for an apocalyptic war … to bring an end to the life of Jews across the world”, has become increasingly involved in radicalising and recruiting individuals for the IRGC and its network of terror proxies.
In September 2020, the UK student group also held an “in conversation with” event with Hossein Yekta, another senior IRGC Plain Clothes commander. Yekta, who referred to British students as “[IRGC-Basij] soft-war officers” is nothing short of a youth indoctrinator and recruiter for the IRGC.
In 1997, he was one of the key founders of the new initiative — “Rahian-e Noor” — designed to take schoolchildren on military-style camping excursions on the Iran-Iraq War battlefields to ingrain martyrdom-seeking culture among Iranian youth and recruit them for the IRGC.
The success of Rahian-e Noor, which became part of the school curriculum and includes AK47 rifle shooting, resulted in Yekta overseeing the IRGC’s “Khatam al-Owsieh” Cultural Headquarters, put together to identify, equip and mobilise pro-regime supporters.
Remarkably, the Islamic Students Association of Britain has also been hosting sanctioned IRGC commanders, one of whom is closely connected to the IRGC’s Intelligence Organisation, an arm of the Guard that is openly seeking to conduct terrorist attacks against Jews globally.
This included Ali Fazli, a senior commander and deputy coordinator of the IRGC.
During Iran’s 2009 anti-regime protests, Fazli was a senior commander of the IRGC’s Sarallah HQ, the most important national-security HQ during times of unrest. He was personally responsible for overseeing all of the police, Basij and IRGC crackdowns on civilians during 2009, resulting in hundreds murdered as well as thousands detained and tortured.
Collectively, these three IRGC commanders are connected to the highest levels of the IRGC’s security-intelligence cohort, known as the “Habib Ring”, which is headed by cleric Mojtaba Khamenei, the supreme leader’s power-hungry son who runs his father’s office.
In other words, not only can we be sure that the London-based student group is glorifying the IRGC, but it is, at the very least, communicating with the highest security-intelligence circle of the Guard.
Meanwhile, the IRGC activities taking place in London are happening at a time when the Guard is not only conducting direct terrorist plots against UK nationals, but is openly seeking to nurture homegrown Islamist radicalisation and terrorism in the UK, using tactics identical to Isis and al-Qaeda.
But unlike Isis and al-Qaeda, the IRGC does so without any legal barrier.
The current sanctions regime on the IRGC does not prohibit its propaganda activities or ability to disseminate jihadi propaganda.
This means, despite hosting some of the IRGC’s most violent and extremist indoctrinators and recruiters, the Islamic Student Association has not committed an offence.
This is why terror legislation is so key and why it must be used against the IRGC.
Proscription would give the UK government, Charity Commission and tech companies a clear mandate to prohibit any propaganda activity related to the IRGC, a mandate it currently lacks.
It would also provide our local communities — including schools and police — with necessary safeguarding tools to prevent against IRGC or Shia radicalisation.
At present, the UK’s Prevent programme, designed to identify and prevent individuals from becoming involved with terrorism through radicalisation, is almost exclusively focused on Sunni Islamist extremism, meaning that the IRGC and Shia Islamist extremist activities are blind-spots.
The proscription of the IRGC would fundamentally change this.
Ultimately, today’s investigation exposes the insufficient nature of existing sanctions on the IRGC, something UK entities like the Islamic Student Association, as well as the Guard’s most senior commanders, have exploited.
This puts the lives of British citizens at risk, not least the Iranian diaspora and Jewish community, the primary targets of IRGC terrorism.
Kasra Aarabi is an expert on Iran and the IRGC
Source » thejc