Senior police officers believe Iranian agents are creating unrest in Britain by stoking Gaza protests.
It comes as officers prepare for a fresh round of demonstrations over the weekend. According to The Times, counterterrorism officers have said that Tehran is attempting to heighten tensions at rallies over Israel’s bombing of Gaza.
They believe it will increase hostile-state activity in the UK. It is thought to be directly linked to the Iranian regime, with campaigns including online disinformation and Iranian operatives physically attending protests.
It comes as the Israeli military said ground forces will be “expanding operations” in the Gaza Strip ahead of an expected full-scale ground invasion. Mobile an internet services have reportedly been cut off in Gaza.
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Over 1,000 police officers will be on duty in London on Saturday as a third consecutive weekend of pro-Palestinian protests are expected in the capital. A rally calling for an immediate ceasefire is expected to attract a record crown of 100,000 people on Saturday.
The Metropolitan Police has said officers will step in if there is a repeat of the “jihad” chants that were heard last week. There was a subsequent backlash against the force after it decided not to arrest protesters who called for a war against Israel.
The Met is also looking to speak to three women who wore pictures of Hamas paragliders and a man who held a poster supporting the terrorist group in London.
The revelations about Iranian inveolvement followed repeated warnings about Tehran operating in the UK. In a speech last week Robin Simcox, the counterextremism commissioner, warned that the “scale of Iranian-backed activity in this country; and the extent to which Iran attempts to stoke extremism here” was under-appreciated.
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The Times sources confirmed that senior police have been privately warning that Tehran operatives are linked to Gaza protests. They say it is complicating police involvement in protests.
The source however emphasised that the groups organising the protests are not linked to Tehran. Instead its operatives work on the fringes of protests.
The source said: “Senior police have said that the policing of protest, disinformation and other linked issues are the most challenging they’ve faced. The Iranian links are a major part of that. Look at the past year where Iran has stepped up its activities in the UK.”
While a Home Office source said: “We are very worried about foreign hostile governments spreading disinformation to try and stoke anti-Israel feelings in the domestic Muslim population for their own purposes.”
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Iran has been accused of being complicit in the conflict by funding Hamas and celebrating the attacks on October 7. Rishi Sunak has since been put under pressure to ban the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has renewed internal efforts to proscribe the group. This would most likely lead to the expulsion of the UK ambassador to Tehran and the loss of intelligence-gathering capabilities.
Both the US and Canada have banned the IRGC. However Foreign Secretary James Cleverley is understood to be imposing sanctions on the group, something he believes will have more impact.
This is because the US and Canada rely on Britain’s influence in Tehran through the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance – Australia and New Zealand making up the final two nations.
A source close to Cleverly told The Times: “Such decisions are taken through a prism of costs and benefits. Would this action, not designed for state entities, do more, and better than the range of measures already taken including the sanctioning of the IRGC in its entirety and individuals amongst it, and would British interests be negatively affected as a result of the action proposed? At the moment the government’s position remains unchanged.”
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