In a recent letter to supporters of the Iranian opposition, Dr Bruno Scholl, head of the Iran Division of the European External Action Service, commented on why the EU had resisted blacklisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Iranian equivalent of the Gestapo. He stated: “Regarding the issue of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), According to Article 1(4) of the Common Position of December 2001, the prerequisite for listing an organisation is a national decision by a competent national authority of a Member State or a third country, such as a Court decision or an order by an administrative authority. In this context, let me also recall that the EU has already listed individuals and entities of the IRGC under the Iran human rights sanctions regime, the territorial integrity of Ukraine sanctions regime, the Syria sanctions regime as well as the Iran weapons of mass destruction sanctions regime, while the IRGC in its entirety has also been listed under the Iran weapons of mass destruction sanctions regime. As such, in effect, there is already an obligation within the EU to freeze all assets held by the IRGC, as well as a prohibition on making available to them of funds or economic resources, directly or indirectly.”

In reality, the EU has listed “the IRGC in its entirety” under the Iranian nuclear programme, meaning that there is a prohibition on any person or entity attempting to sell or transfer items that could be used in the manufacture or deployment of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. However, this prohibition stops short of listing “the IRGC in its entirety” as a terrorist organisation. The failure to blacklist the Revolutionary Guard, allows them to continue to operate as a major threat to global security. With their involvement in terrorist activities, support for extremist groups, and a long history of human rights abuses, the IRGC is ruthlessly exploiting this failure. America blacklisted the IRGC in 2019. By failing to follow this lead, the EU is inadvertently providing legitimacy to the IRGC and its evil activities.

Indeed, according to Dr Scholl, “the prerequisite for listing an organisation (as terrorists) is a national decision by a competent national authority of a Member State or a third country.” America is both a competent authority and, in this context, a third country. Why the EU cannot follow their lead is extraordinary and betrays a tendency to pursue the path of appeasement when dealing with the Iranian regime.

On Monday 29 January, Britain imposed sanctions on Iranian officials it said were involved in threats to kill journalists on British soil, and others it said were part of international criminal gangs linked to Iran. The UK Foreign Office said the sanctions, imposed in coordination with the United States, targeted seven individuals and one organization. The sanctioned officials are members of the sinister Unit 840 of the IRGC, which intelligence services claim was involved in plots to assassinate two television presenters from news channel Iran International in the UK. The UK’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron said: “The Iranian regime and the criminal gangs who operate on its behalf pose an unacceptable threat to the UK’s security”.

However, the piecemeal sanctioning of a handful of IRGC thugs and their menacing Unit 840 organization, does not go nearly far enough. The very fact that the UK government has identified the IRGC as being behind the deployment of Unit 840 and its trained assassins, is surely enough to warrant the blacklisting of the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps? The same criteria applies to the EU. When the Iranian terrorist ‘diplomat’ Assadollah Assadi was caught red-handed in 2018, handing a bomb and €30,000 to 3 co-conspirators, with instructions to detonate the device at a mass Iranian opposition rally in Paris, he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. In his hire-car the police found a little red notebook containing the names and addresses of 200 agents he had visited in 11 EU Member States. 

Disgracefully, Assadi was released in a prisoner-swap deal with the Iranian regime, and he returned home to a hero’s welcome, in exchange for a young Belgian charity worker, arrested on sham espionage charges and sentenced to 40 years jail and 74 lashes. But there has been no news of the mass-arrests of the 200 agents listed in Assadi’s little red notebook. Belgian court papers claimed Assadi, although registered as a diplomat working in the Iranian embassy in Vienna, was in fact a senior official from the mullahs’ Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), operating with yet another malevolent offshoot of the IRGC known as Department 312, a group that uses criminal proxies to carry out its planned assassinations and bombings. The recent botched attempt to assassinate Professor Alejo Vidal Quadras in Madrid, was a case in point. Vidal Quadras has been a long-standing supporter of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and in November last year was shot in the face as he strolled outside his home in the Salamanca district of Madrid. Luckily, although severely injured, he has survived. But the attempted hit bears all the hallmarks of an Iranian operation sub-contracted to proxies.

Indeed, Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, Britain’s head of counter-terrorism policing, told the media earlier in January about Iran’s growing use of criminal proxies. “Why would you do it yourself when you can procure an organized criminal to take the action on your behalf and provide distance and deniability,” he said.

The IRGC has been a destabilizing force in the Middle East for decades, engaging in proxy wars, sponsoring terrorist organizations, and fuelling sectarian conflicts. Its involvement in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen, through its proxy groups such as Hezbollah, has led to immense bloodshed and suffering. It has relentlessly violated human rights within Iran's borders, leading to widespread oppression, arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings.  By listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization, the EU and UK would send a clear message that support for such destructive activities will not be tolerated. Appeasing the Iranian regime has been an historic error. Iran is the mortal enemy of the West. It is time we woke up to that reality.