British intelligence fears Gulf crisis could lead to attacks on UK by Iranian terror cells

Terror cells linked to the Iranian-funded Hezbollah group are all over Europe, and could launch an attack on the UK if relations between London and Tehran deteriorate further, intelligences sources say. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 22 July 2019

British intelligence fears Gulf crisis could lead to attacks on UK by Iranian terror cells

  • Tensions between Britain and Iran have heightened following the seizure of UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero
  • A counter-terror operation in 2015 against a Hezbollah-linked found the cell had been stockpiling tons of explosives

LONDON: The UK could come under attack from Iranian-backed terror cells if the ongoing Gulf crisis worsens and relations between London and Tehran continue to deteriorate, intelligence sources have said.

Senior intelligence officers in the UK now rank the Islamic Republic only behind Russia and China as the severest threat to the national security of the UK, a Daily Telegraph report on Monday said.

Tensions between Britain and Iran have heightened following the seizure of UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz last week, raising concerns of top intelligence bodies in Britain.

According to MI5 and MI6, Iran is funding a network of terror cells across the European continent — including in the UK — and, depending on how the Gulf crisis plays out, could give the green light for attacks to be carried out.

A counter-terror operation in 2015 against a Hezbollah-linked cell found the group had been stockpiling tons of explosives on the outskirts of London, something first disclosed by the Telegraph in June, and described as “proper organized terrorism.”




A counter-terror operation in 2015 against a Hezbollah-linked cell found the group had been stockpiling tons of explosives. (AFP/File Photo)

A source told the newspaper: “Iran has Hezbollah operatives in position to carry out a terrorist attack in the event of a conflict. That is the nature of the domestic threat Iran poses to the UK.”

MI5 and Metropolitan Police said they were confident that the 2015 raids had “severely disrupted” Iranian terror activity in the UK, but that cells still existed on the European mainland.

The report also disclosed that Iran had been blamed for a series of cyberattacks on the UK, including hacking of politician’s and peers personal information, on the Post Office as well as local government bodies and private sector companies in 2018.

The UK government has sent a letter of protest to the UN Security Council over the seizure of the tankers in “Omani waters when it was interrupted by Iranian forces,” which it says is an “illegal interference by Iran.”

The UK government has consistently said it does not seek confrontation with Iran, but the letter added: “It is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.”


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 48 min 59 sec ago

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”