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Joe Biden diplomats trying to block UK plan to proscribe Iran militias as terror group

Iran's Revolutionary Guard controls the country's elite armed and intelligence forces - Morteza Nikoubazl/Getty

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard controls the country’s elite armed and intelligence forces – Morteza Nikoubazl/Getty

Joe Biden’s diplomats are pressuring the UK Government not to formally declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group, despite the Home Office backing the moveThe Telegraph has been told.

The US State Department has argued that the UK can play a key role as interlocutors with Tehran which would be undercut by the designation, according to Whitehall insiders.

The argument is being used by the Foreign Office to oppose the Home Office’s proposal to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC].

But it runs counter to the fact that the US administration has already itself proscribed the IRGC, a decision taken when Donald Trump was in the White House.

Proscription would make it a criminal offense to belong to the IRGC, attend its meetings, carry its logo in public or encourage support of its activities.

The IRGC was founded as an ideological custodian of Iran’s 1979 revolution but has since morphed into a major military, political and economic force in the country.

The drive to proscribe the group, first revealed by The Telegraph, has been held up by a battle in Whitehall about the wisdom of taking the approach.

The Home Office, where Suella Braverman is Home Secretary and Tom Tugendhat is security minister, has been pushing for proscription across Whitehall.

Ken McCallum, the MI5 Director General, said in November in a rare public speech that in 2022 there had been 10 Iranian plots to kidnap or murder British residents.

In November, Ken McCallum, the MI5 Director General, outlined detailed plots by the Iranian regime to kidnap or murder British residents - Yui Mok/PA

In November, Ken McCallum, the MI5 Director General, outlined detailed plots by the Iranian regime to kidnap or murder British residents – Yui Mok/PA

But the Foreign Office, where James Cleverly is Foreign Secretary, has warned against taking the move and questioned whether it would achieve the desired aims.

One point made by the Foreign Office is that proscription is usually taken against groups that are not a central part of a country’s state apparatus, as the IRGC is to Iran.

Rishi Sunak is expected to make the final decision, although it is unclear when a final call is due. A decision had been expected within weeks in January but has been held up amid the row.

In a separate development, Mr Tugendhat criticized Iran’s clamping down on press freedoms during remarks in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Mr. Tugendhat said: “Let me be clear. Freedom of the press is at the heart of our freedoms. Tehran’s efforts to silence Iran International are a direct attack on our freedoms and an attempt to undermine our sovereignty. They will fail.”

Pressure from Mr. Biden’s State Department – the US equivalent of the Foreign Office – complicates the debate in Whitehall, given the close US-UK relationship on foreign policy.

However, the opposition from the State Department is not shared by all parts of Mr. Biden’s administration, according to some British interpretations of the US situation.

Those supporting proscription for the IRGC have questioned the validity of arguments raised by the Foreign Office citing the State Department.

A UK government source backing the move said: ‚ÄúThese are arguments made without any real evidence in supposedly mysterious intelligence circles. The Government will do everything it can to crack down on the Iranian regime’s criminal operations here in Britain.”

The development adds a new layer of challenge between the US-UK relationship under Mr. Sunak’s premiership.

The Prime Minister is said to be considering a trip to Washington DC after the Budget in March, which would allow him to hold face-to-face talks with Mr. Biden.

The Foreign Office and Home Office do not comment on the prescription process until announcements are made.

A US State Department spokesperson said: “It is up to each country to determine what action in regards to the IRGC is applicable under their legal authorities and in their best interests.”

The spokesperson also noted the US had “applauded the EU’s designations of IRGC officials and entities for their involvement in providing drones to Russia”.

A US State Department spokesperson said: “It is up to each country to determine what action in regards to the IRGC is applicable under their legal authorities and in their best interests.”

The spokesperson also noted the US had “applauded the EU’s designations of IRGC officials and entities for their involvement in providing drones to Russia”.

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