David Rose, author, and the Politics and Investigation editor of the Jewish Chronicle (the JC), a London-based Jewish weekly newspaper, spoke on October 2 on a Middle East Forum Webinar (video). The following is a summary of his comments:
The British government recently debated whether Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) should be designated a terrorist organization in the UK. In early 2023, senior cabinet ministers were about to announce the designation when, following the British foreign secretary's pushback, they abruptly stepped back, reasoning that "it's not in the UK's interests to do so at this time." His concern was that the resulting closure of the British Embassy in Tehran would deny the UK a useful intelligence "window." In addition, such a designation would reduce the prospect of a deal to "curb Iran's nuclear activities."
In the year prior to the reversal, investigative stories in the JC about Iranian regime activities in the UK exposed the following IRGC infiltrations of British institutions and universities:
- The Islamic Centre of England (ICE) is a large mosque in central London controlled by the Iranian regime. Founded in 1995, its current director, Hossein Mousavi, is the personal UK representative of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It enjoys generous tax breaks as a charity.
In 2020, a Charity Commission investigation found ICE "harboring extremism" after the mosque organized a vigil attended by two thousand adults and children to mourn the death of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani in a 2020 U.S. drone strike. The commission issued a formal warning to ICE for hosting preachers who advocated crushing Iranian protests.
In 2022, the JC reported that the mosque was used to film a video of more than a hundred Iranian schoolchildren who attended a nearby school owned by the regime. They were singing an Iranian propaganda song venerating the Mahdi, a mythological imam in Shi'ite theology who returns to earth only after world Jewry and Israel are "obliterated."
- The JC interviewed Catherine Perez-Shakdam, who infiltrated the Iranian regime by becoming a trusted attendee of conferences organized by New Horizon, which comprises Neofascist parties and includes members of Hezbollah and Hamas terror groups.
Perez-Shakdam discovered the regime engaged in mapping the international Jewish community and surveilling prominent Jews for potential assassination. The MI5 British Security Service confirmed that it had foiled multiple assassination plots "masterminded by the IRGC in the previous twelve months." Earlier this year, two Pakistani nationals directed by the IRGC were arrested in Athens with explosive material. Apparently, they were planning a bombing campaign targeting Jews in Greece.
- The JC developed an algorithmic system to identify collaboration between British academics at British universities, such as Cambridge and other highly regarded institutions, with universities in Iran. Specifically, collaborations between British and Iranian scientists produced multiple papers in recent years on weapons and dual use technology, military drones, "battlefield communication systems, quantum computing ... quantum sensors, [and] jet engines for the next generation of military aircraft."
The JC series investigating twenty-one academics and eleven universities, many of which are on a UK sanctions list, elicited an official investigation by multiple government departments readying a file for prosecutors to investigate the collaborators in possible breach of UK sanctions law.
- The Union of Islamic Student Association in Europe (UISAE), located in West London and run by Ataee Abadi, features online lectures by IRGC commanders who support Hezbollah and Hamas. These lecture recordings, which advocate destroying Jews and Israel to hasten the return of the Mahdi, are intended for students at British and European universities.
- The Islamic College of London, which is controlled by the Iranian regime, is the UK branch of Al-Mustafa University in Iran's Holy City of Qom. The US has sanctioned it as an IRGC terrorist entity used for recruitment. Students spend a year or more in Qom, where hundreds of foreign students who have gone through the Al-Mustafa University program are radicalized and many go on to fight with Hezbollah in Syria or support Hamas operations.
Senior members of parliament (MP's) reviewing the JC's investigations concluded that it is time to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Stymying the MP's efforts is an unseen mass of the UK's "career foreign service bureaucrats," aka "the blob," who advance their own interests to "sometimes prevent politicians who want to pull one of the levers of power in a political direction."
Imposing sanctions on IRGC commanders who lecture at British universities is a "weak tool" because they do not have assets to freeze. However, designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity in its entirety, as has been done in the US, will have the immediate benefit under UK law of rendering public support for, or funding of, the IRGC a criminal offense under the Terrorism Act.
Rose turned his investigative skills to interfaith events, exposing the Archbishop of Canterbury's tête-à-tête's with Mohammed Ali Shomani, the former head of ICE and "a wolf in sheep's clothing." Shomani, who purports to "build bridges with Christian communities," is actually director of the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom, a center founded by Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi, a hardline revolutionary ideologue of the Iranian regime.
The JC has also uncovered links at events celebrating Eid between British police forces and revolutionary ideologues who are members of radical institutions controlled by the Iranian regime. Although the parliamentary chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, Lord Stuart Polak, urged the UK to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization, he fears such a designation will come too late and that in the interim the IRGC will commit an assassination or cause a mass casualty attack. Rose said, "I hope it doesn't come to that." A journalist's job is to "report, to investigate, to dig." If there is no political action taken because of his findings, "there won't be a great deal that I can do."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.