UK announces new sanctions regime targeted at Iranian threats

The Foreign Secretary said the new sanctions regime will ensure there ‘can be no hiding place for those who seek to do us harm’.

The Foreign Secretary has announced greater powers for the UK to issue sanctions against Iran after the Government accused Tehran of attempts to kill British and UK-based individuals.

James Cleverly said the new sanctions regime will ensure there “can be no hiding place for those who seek to do us harm”.

According to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Iran has increased its efforts to kill or kidnap individuals perceived to be enemies of the regime outside of Iran, including those based in the UK.

Since the start of 2022, the department said Britain had responded to more than 15 credible threats to kill or kidnap British or UK-based individuals by the Iranian regime.

FCDO officials said members of Tehran’s ruling elite had publicly called for the murder or capture of such individuals and in some cases had detained and harassed the individual’s families in Iran.

They said the Iranian intelligence services have developed close relationships with organised criminal gangs in the UK and across Europe to expand the capability of its networks.

A new sanctions regime, announced by the Foreign Secretary in Parliament on Thursday, is designed to give the UK greater powers to target Iran’s key decision makers and those acting on their behalf.

The regime will expand sanction powers by creating new criteria under which individuals and entities can be targeted.

Those people or groups involved in undermining peace, stability and security in the Middle East and internationally will be able to be sanctioned, the FCDO said.

The sanctions framework will look to punish those using and spreading weapons or weapons technologies from Iran, along with attempts by Tehran to undermine democracy and respect for the rule of law.

Other hostile activities towards the UK and its allies emanating from the Iranian regime, including threats to people, property or security, will also fall under the scope of fresh sanctions — which will be put forward in legislation due later this year — the FCDO declared.

Mr Cleverly in a statement said: “The Iranian regime is oppressing its own people, exporting bloodshed in Ukraine and the Middle East, and threatening to kill and kidnap on UK soil.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Dual British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in Iran for six years (Victoria Jones/PA)

“Today the UK has sent a clear message to the regime — we will not tolerate this malign behaviour and we will hold you to account.

“Our new sanctions regime will help to ensure there can be no hiding place for those who seek to do us harm.”

He also told reporters: “What we have seen over the last 18 months is an unprecedented level of aggression from Iran, against people here in UK trying to silence dissenting voices.

“Now the Home Office and the security services are responsible for the protection of people here in the UK and we are taking action to support them to deter Iranian behaviour against people here.”

On Thursday in New York, the UK is set to lead international opposition to Iran’s weapons proliferation and nuclear escalation at the United Nations Security Council as part of its presidency in July.

Foreign Office officials said the UK has handed over extensive evidence to UN Security Council members demonstrating the Iranian regime continues to send weapons to the Houthis in Yemen and to Russia for use in Ukraine, in violation of the council’s restrictions.

The UK and its allies are expected to condemn what the FCDO labelled “malign behaviour” in the presence of the Iranian permanent representative to the UN, who is anticipated to attend the event.

The moves come as the UK ministers faced criticism at home for the response to a critical parliamentary report on the handling of hostage-taking of dual British nationals in Iran.

The Foreign Office has defended its performance but Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – who was detained by Tehran for six years, said its response to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report showed the Government was “still refusing to take the issue seriously”.

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