Written evidence submitted by the Community Security Trust (UKI0003)



Executive Summary









  1. This submission is from Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that advises and supports the UK Jewish community in matters of antisemitism, extremism and terrorism. The submission focuses on the areas of the Inquiry that relate to CST’s work and implications for the security of the UK Jewish community.


  1. CST has made previous submissions to the 2014 Foreign Affairs Committee Inquiry on Iran, its hostile foreign policies and terrorist activities against Jewish communities worldwide.[1] In 2018 and 2019, CST published two reports detailing the global terrorist modus operandi of both Iran and its proxy Hizballah.[2]


  1. While an improvement in UK-Iran relations may be a positive development in some policy and commercial areas, the prospect of full open relations with Iran could undermine the UK Government’s counter-extremism and counter-terrorism policies. It would harm the safety and security of the UK Jewish community, as well as other ethnic and religious communities that Iran considers adversaries.


  1. The prospect of the UK and Iran coordinating military activities and sharing intelligence would mean facilitating a regime that actively uses international terrorism and antisemitism as tools of its foreign policy.


Iran’s global terrorist threat


  1. Iran remains a state sponsor of terrorism. The US Government designated it as such in 1984. To this day, Iran, directly and indirectly, promotes terrorism against its perceived adversaries, such as against Iranian dissidents abroad, diaspora Jewish communities and Israeli interests worldwide.


  1. Iran uses terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy to achieve regime objectives. This includes using Iran’s state resources and government structures to commit acts of international terrorism.[3]


  1. Iran and Hizballah possess international terrorist capabilities. Both operate globally and have a history of engaging in covert external “special operations” and international criminal activities. The 2019 intelligence assessment of the US Office of National Intelligence stated that both Iran and Hizballah will continue to develop global terrorist capabilities.[4]


  1. In 2018-19, authorities in the Netherlands, Albania, Denmark, France and Germany arrested, expelled or blamed Iran for engaging in assassinations and terrorist-related activities in their countries. Two of these cases involved Iranian operatives targeting Jewish or Israeli interests, including Jewish nurseries.


  1. Iran and Hizballah employ a range of modus operandi as part of their information-gathering and attack preparations. Operatives are known for keeping a “bank of targets” as contingency options ready to be activated when an order is given to attack. In this sense, they seek to establish command day capabilities and build a capacity to undertake attacks worldwide. Their primary modus operandi are detailed in CST’s 2019 briefing. They include, inter alia, undertaking hostile reconnaissance on targets globally; using sophisticated and detailed cover stories to disguise intentions; infiltrating Iranian dissident groups by using cover stories and coercive tactics; assembling “human target packages” to neutralise adversaries; and recruiting operatives worldwide, especially those with dual nationalities and Western passports.[5]


  1. Iran also maintains a sophisticated cyberwarfare capability with a global reach.[6] UK authorities blamed Iran for a major cyber-attack in June 2017 that targeted British Parliamentary email accounts.[7] In 2017, the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) stated that GCHQ considers Iran as one of the primary state actors posing a cyber-security threat to the UK. [8](See Paragraph 23 regarding Iran’s use of Twitter for information operations.)


Iran’s terrorist infrastructure and assistance to UK-proscribed groups

  1. Iran’s external operations are generally organised and handled by operatives from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS/VEVAK) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force (or Quds Force, herein QF). The QF is the IRGC’s special operations branch and handles most of Iran’s international sabotage, espionage, assassinations and attacks worldwide. MOIS often provides the QF with logistical support and handles the communications of operations that involve QF and Hizballah operatives.[9]


  1. While the UK Government fully proscribed Hizballah as a terrorist organisation in March 2019, the QF has for decades supported Hizballah’s military, paramilitary and terrorist activities, offering Hizballah funding, guidance, weapons, intelligence and logistical support.[10] QF runs training camps for Hizballah in Lebanon and has reportedly trained thousands of Hizballah fighters at IRGC training facilities in Iran. Hizballah’s External Security Organisation (ESO) organises the organisation’s international operations.


  1. Additionally, QF has provided training, assistance and lethal support to other terrorist groups proscribed under UK terrorism legislation: Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al Qa’ida (AQ), Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, PFLP-General Command and others. [11]Iran and AQ have cooperated to various extents for nearly three decades.[12] Iran has also supported other violent insurgencies or proxies such as Iraqi Shia militias, the Taliban, Ansar Allah in Yemen (the Houthi movement) and others.[13]


UK assessments of Iranian threats

  1. Under HM Treasury’s regime of financial sanctions, the IRGC and QF, along with other associated branches and key individuals, are designated as asset freeze targets.[14] For example, since 2007, HM Treasury has designated QF commander Major General Qassem Soleimani as an asset freeze target – indeed, these sanctions have remained in force posthumously following Soleimani’s killing in the US targeted strike in January 2020.[15]


  1. Neither the IRGC nor the QF are proscribed terrorist organisations under UK law. In April 2019, the US Government designated the IRGC (including the QF) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) because it “has engaged in terrorist activity or terrorism since its inception 40 years ago.”[16] In February 2020, the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) published an extensive report on the IRGC’s global extremism and called for the UK, EU and Five Eyes to similarly designate the IRGC.[17]



  1. UK Government officials rarely comment publicly on the specific nature of Iranian or Hizballah activities in the UK. In May 2019, however, the Times reported on alleged hostile Iranian state activities involving agents spying on and infiltrating regime opposition groups in Britain. The report included a rare public confirmation, by an anonymous British security source, of Iranian espionage activities in the UK:


“British intelligence services are acutely aware of the espionage threat and hostile state activity from Iranian actors in the UK. MI5 regards Iran as being very active in trying to intimidate and silence dissidents in the UK.” [18]


  1. In June 2012, then MI5 Director-General Jonathan Evans spoke publicly on national security matters and mentioned at length the nature of Iranian and Hizballah terror threats, concluding:


“...a return to State-sponsored terrorism by Iran or its associates, such as Hezbollah, cannot be ruled out as pressure on the Iranian leadership increases.”[19]


  1. In 2006, Parliament’s ISC report listed a range of security threats the UK faces, including Iranian-linked terrorism:


“There is increasing international tension over Iran’s nuclear programme and backing of groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah.”[20]


Iran’s terrorist attacks against Jewish communities worldwide

  1. Iran and Hizballah have been responsible for numerous anti-Jewish terrorist attacks, plots and operations worldwide for nearly 40 years. They are linked to some 50 incidents against Jewish communities and Israelis abroad.


  1. The most catastrophic attack was the July 1994 vehicle-borne suicide bombing at the AMIA Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The sophisticated attack was ordered by Iranian government leaders, coordinated by Iranian intelligence and executed by Hizballah. Iranian intelligence provided logistical support such as communications among the operatives and the documents needed for the operations.[21]


  1. CST’s related reports have detailed over 30 examples of executed, failed and foiled Iranian and Hizballah attacks worldwide.[22] In 2012 alone, they were connected to incidents in India, Georgia, Thailand, Singapore, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and Kenya, all of which were directed at either Israeli interests abroad or Jewish communities.


  1. A primary feature of their international modus operandi is using trained operatives and/or local proxies to undertake hostile reconnaissance against Jewish individuals and community locations worldwide, including in Europe.




Iranian state antisemitism

  1. Iran promotes antisemitism as a component of its foreign policy. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has espoused antisemitic conspiracy theories on several occasions. This includes his conspiratorial definition of Zionists:


“When we say ‘Zionists’ we do not only mean the usurping Zionist government. That is only part of the Zionist entity. The Zionists form the major capitalists of some countries, including the United State (sic) of America, and dominate the politics of that country. Today, unfortunately, the United States, its Congress and its government, are under the spell of Zionism in different financial, economic, cultural, political and propaganda arenas. The bulk of the propaganda organs of the world mass media, furthermore, are controlled by the Zionists. Most of the famous news agencies which you know of are controlled by them. The few that do not belong to them, in fact move in harmony with them.”[24]


  1. Iran has used various social media platforms to conduct foreign influence campaigns and disseminate antisemitism. According to Twitter’s transparency report (June 2019), Twitter identified 4,779 accounts they believe to be “connected to state-backed information operations” of Iran.[25] One account, operating under the handle @whatsupic, posted at least 26,000 tweets from June 2013 to August 2018.[26] Some of these tweets included anti-Jewish references, spreading antisemitic disinformation that the Saudi royal family are “Jewish” and claiming that Jewish religious texts secretly reveal plans for global Jewish supremacy. Other tweets posted disparaging language against Jews such as that “Persians should never sleep with Jewish whores”. Twitter’s report also highlighted how Iranian state-sponsored accounts latched on to existing points of contention within the UK to spread further discord.


  1. In CST’s submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee 2015 Inquiry into ISIL, CST cautioned against the UK cooperating with Iran as a means to confront ISIL (Daesh/ISIS).[27] The submission detailed that senior Iranian leaders stated that ISIL and other Salafi Jihad organisations (which they refer to as Takfiris) are creations of Zionism, Israel and Western governments, and that these powers support ISIL in order to divide and weaken Islam. This includes comments from Iran’s Supreme Leader, President and other senior figures.[28] The 2020 TBI study of IRGC training material also shows that the Revolutionary Guard promotes antisemitic conspiracy theories, such as claiming that the Salafi and Wahhabi streams of Sunni Islam are a British colonialist creation with Jewish origins aiming to destroy Islam.[29] Overall, these views appear to be commonplace and should not be dismissed purely as rhetoric for domestic consumption.


  1. Iranian state antisemitism and Holocaust denial are part of an antisemitic politics that explains global events through conspiracy theories and incites hatred of Jews/Zionists as the source of all global woes. In 2006, Ayatollah Khamenei addressed Iranian Air Force servicemen and spoke about “the myth of the massacre of Jews known as the Holocaust”.[30] Iran held infamous Holocaust cartoon competitions in 2006 and 2016 mocking, trivialising or denying the history of the Nazi genocide of European Jews.[31] In March 2020, the organiser of these cartoon competitions initiated a new cartoon contest, supported by Iran’s Health Ministry, titled “We Defeat Coronavirus”.[32] Some of the submissions include conspiracy theories of the US deliberately spreading the contagion.[33]


Ideological support for Iran in the UK


  1. The UK has a long-standing presence of ideological support for the Iranian regime and Hizballah – until the latter’s proscription last year. For nearly 40 years, since the 1979 revolution, UK-based groups have organised pro-Iran and pro-Hizballah events. These include conferences venerating Ayatollah Khomeini and praising his teachings and revolutionary ideology-theology, as well as the annual Al-Quds Day events in London.


  1. Since 1980-81, UK groups have held the annual Al-Quds Day demonstrations, during which activists brandished Hizballah flags and banners, as well as photos of living and deceased leaders. From the early 1980s to early 2000s, the UK branch of the Union of Islamic Student Associations Europe (UISA) was active in these activities and organised the Quds Day events. UISA and other pro-regime Iranian student groups were also active on British university campuses during that period.


  1. More recently, the Al-Quds Day demonstrations in London have been organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). The IHRC, in fact, has a direct connection to Iran: one of its co-founders and directors, Professor Saied Reza Ameli, is also secretary of Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution and a former member of Ayatollah Khamenei’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace.[34]  


  1. The UK saw at least 10 commemorations commemorating Iranian QF commander Major-General Soleimani after the 3 January 2020 US military strike that killed him, Iraqi militia leader Jamal Jaffar Ibrahim (aka Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis) and other IRGC and militia personnel. Vigils and memorials took place between 3 and 10 January 2020 in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Luton. Consider these examples:




  1. Pro-Iranian groups and activists in the UK have sought to disrupt Muslim-Jewish cross-communal cooperation, attempting to convince moderate British Muslim organisations to cease interactions with certain UK Jewish communal bodies. This has been done on the spurious grounds that “Zionists” are using interfaith to infiltrate mosques to convince Muslims to support Israel. Press TV UK, a branch of Iranian Press TV, has disseminated messages on social media denigrating “Zionist-backed interfaith” with British Muslim communities.[38] In 2012, Ofcom revoked Press TV Limited’s broadcasting license[39], although Press TV and Press TV UK remain active on social media.


  1. While the following are primarily a UK domestic matter, some of these developments also raise foreign affairs concerns:





[1] CST submission, Evidence to Foreign Affairs Select Committee on ‘UK Policy towards Iran’, January 2014

[2] “The Case Against Hizbollah”, CST Research Briefing, January 2018; “Iran and Hizbollah’s Global Terrorism: Patterns and Methods”, CST Research Briefing, July 2019

[3] AMIA Indictment (English official version), Alberto Nisman, March 2015: pgs. 656-657; “Treasury Sanctions Five Individuals Tied to Iranian Plot to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States”, US Treasury, 11 October 2011; Matthew Levitt, “Iran’s Deadly Diplomats”, CTC Sentinel, 11:7, August 2018

[4] Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” ODNI, January 2019: pgs. 12-13

[5] “Iran and Hizbollah’s Global Terrorism: Patterns and Methods”, CST Research Briefing, July 2019

[6] Annie Fixler, “The Cyber Threat from Iran after the Death of Soleimani”, CTC Sentinel, 13:2, February 2020; “Iran’s Hacker Hierarchy Exposed”, Recorded Future; Gabi Siboni, Léa Abramski and Gal Sapir, “Iran’s Activity in Cyberspace: Identifying Patterns and Understanding the Strategy”, Cyber, Intelligence, and Security, 4:1, March 2020; Escalating Tensions Between the United States and Iran Pose Potential Threats to the Homeland”, Joint Intelligence Bulletin, 8 January 2020

[7] “Iran blamed for Parliament cyber-attack”, BBC News, 14 October 2017

[8] ISC Annual Report 2016-17: pg. 29 and pg. 55

[9] “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A Profile”, Federal Research Division - Library of Congress, December 2012

[10] “Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism”, US Treasury, 25 October 2007

[11] “Treasury Sanctions Five Individuals Tied to Iranian Plot to Assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States”, US Treasury, 11 October 2011

[12] Kyle Orton, “The Al Qaeda-Iran Nexus”, The Brief, 26 October 2018; Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God, Georgetown University Press: pg. 199; “USA vs Ali Mohamed”, US District Court, Southern District of New York, 20 October 2000: pg. 9

[13] “Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism”, Hansard transcript of Commons Chamber discussion, Tony McNulty MP, then Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, Column 193, 15 July 2008. (Note: Hizballah has provided lethal support to Shia militias in Iraq, including Jaysh al-Mahdi, training them in the use of the IEDs used in roadside bombs. These Shia militias were responsible for attacking Iraqi civilians, as well as British and other coalition forces.)

[14] “Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets In the UK”, HM Treasury, 24 March 2020

[15] Ibid. 

[16] “Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, US State Department, 8 April 2019

[17] Kasra Aarabi, “Beyond Borders: the Expansionist Ideology of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, Tony Blair Institute, 4 February 2020

[18] Marc Horne, “Tehran ‘wages campaign of fear among UK exiles’”, The Times, 15 May 2019

[19] Director-General Jonathan Evans, “The Olympics and Beyond”, Security Service MI5, 22 June 2012

[20] ISC Annual Report 2005-2006: pg. 5

[21] “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A Profile”, Federal Research Division - Library of Congress, December 2012

[22] See footnotes above for CST’s publications

[23] “Two Individuals Sentenced in Connection with Work on Behalf of Iran”, US Department of Justice, 15 January 2020

[24] CST, When we say “Zionists”…, 19 June 2009

[25] Twitter Transparency Report: Information Operations, Iran, June 2019

[26] Twitter removed the original tweets, but screenshots are available upon request.

[27] CST submission, Evidence to Foreign Affairs Select Committee on “The fight against ISIL: the UK’s Role”, November 2015

[28] BBC Monitoring translation, “Iran Leader urges Muslim unity against Western arrogance - text of speech,” Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 1721gmt 17 Aug 15; BBC Monitoring translation, “Iran Leader urges Muslim unity against Western arrogance - text of speech,” Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Tehran, in Persian 1721gmt 17 Aug 15

[29] Kasra Aarabi, Tony Blair Institute, 4 February 2020: pgs. 46-49; History of Wahhabism and Salafism, Deputy of Ideological-Political Education of the Representative of the Supreme Leader in the IRGC

[30] “Holocaust Denial and Distortion from Iranian Government and Official Media Sources, 1998–2016”, US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)

[31] “Holocaust Denial: Iran Holocaust Cartoon Exhibition”, USHMM

[32] “We Defeat Coronavirus” Gallery, Iran Cartoon, March-April 2020

[33] Ben Cohen, “Organizer of Iran Regime’s Holocaust Caricature Contest Now Peddling Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories”, Algemeiner, 25 March 2020

[34] Dominic Kennedy, “Migration adviser is top figure in Iran regime”, The Times, 30 May 2019; Saied Reza Ameli LinkedIN profile; “Ayatollah Khamenei urges prompt planning, decision-making in cyberspace”, Ayatollah Khamenei website, 5 September 2015; Islamic Human Rights Commission, Company Number 04716690, Companies House

[35] Video recording posted in tweet account of Imam Reza Shrine (@imamrezaen), 5 January 2020,

[36] “Message from the Head of the Islamic Center of England to the Honourable Commanders of Martyr Haj Qassem Soleimani and Martyr Abu Mehdi Al Muhandis”, Islamic Centre of England (Farsi site) (original link no longer available, see link on Google web cache); Commemorative poster, Islamic Centre of England, (original link no longer available, see link on Google web cache)

[37] David Brown, “Inquiry into charity Islamic Centre of England that called Iran’s Soleimani a martyr”, The Times, 7 January 2020

[38] Tweets by Press TV UK include the following:

https://twitter.com/Presstvuk/status/1088187426634457098 (23 January 2019)

https://twitter.com/Presstvuk/status/1081508006792228865 (5 January 2019)

https://twitter.com/Presstvuk/status/1079014654398074880 (29 December 2018)

https://twitter.com/Presstvuk/status/1065094321920196608 (21 November 2018)

[39] Revocation, Press TV Limited, Ofcom, 20 January 2012

[40] Tweets by Mohammed Seedat (@moseeds), 17 March 2019; “The Scholars are the Heirs of The Prophets”, Ahlebait TV, YouTube, 20 March 2019

[41] Rosa Doherty, “Golders Green Mosque cancelled Shoah exhibition over Iran fears”, Jewish Chronicle, 10 January 2019

[42] Ibid.

[43] Press TV UK tweet on 29 December 2018: https://twitter.com/Presstvuk/status/1079014654398074880

[44] Article on event on Holocaust event at the “Shirazi cult” centre (Farsi), Mehr News Agency (1 January 2019) and Taghrib News (1 January 2019)

[45] Rosa Doherty, Golders Green Mosque cancelled Shoah exhibition over Iran fears”, Jewish Chronicle, 10 January 2019; David Toube, “The Depressing Saga of the Holocaust Exhibition in Golders Green”, Q Perspective, 4 January 2019

[46] “Mosque in Golders Green to host Israeli Holocaust event”, 5Pillars, 30 December 2018; Roshan Salih (@rmsalih) tweets on 3 January 2019: https://twitter.com/Presstvuk/status/1078999891794382849 https://twitter.com/RmSalih/status/1080924167300673536 https://twitter.com/RmSalih/status/1080919323185741830

[47] “ALERT: How to Support Palestine”, Islamic Human Rights Commission, 17 May 2018
















April 2020