The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is recruiting British Muslims on pilgrimages to Iran and Iraq to spy on Jews and Jewish targets in the United Kingdom, according to a Friday report citing Israeli and UK officials.
According to the report in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper, IRGC recruiters have been approaching Shiite Muslims visiting religious sites in the Middle East and asking them to “gather information on prominent British Jews or targets such as synagogues.”
The agents are also reportedly asked to spy on Iranian dissidents based in the UK.
An unnamed source quoted in the report said, “We do not know the scale of Iranian agents inside Europe and the UK, but all it takes is for one to slip through the net.”
Another expert, Kasra Aarabi, of the United Against Nuclear Iran think tank, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying that the recruiters usually focus on hiring British Shias who originated from Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon rather than British Iranians “who are usually secular and oppose the Ayatollah regime.”
According to the report, British Muslims visiting the holy Iraqi city of Karbala in September to commemorate Arbaeen, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, were approached to spy for Iran.
The report also quoted a British official as saying that the Iranian regime often uses British-based organized crime networks to carry out attacks on UK soil, and that information gathered by the British spies may be used in such plots.
In late January, Britain imposed sanctions on seven Iranian officials and one organization 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 sanctioned Iranian officials were members of the IRGC’s Unit 840, which an ITV investigation in Britain said was involved in plots to assassinate two television presenters from the news channel Iran International in Britain.
In the wake of Hamas’s devastating October 7 massacres in southern Israel, Britain’s domestic MI5 spy agency chief warned that the ongoing current conflict between Israel and the Gazan terrorists had increased the UK’s terror risk, singling out Iran as a cause for concern.
The comments by MI5 director-general Ken McCallum, reported in UK media in mid-October, followed terror attacks by suspected Islamist extremists in France and Belgium since war broke out in Gaza following Hamas’s devastating onslaught, which saw terrorists kill some 1,200 people and kidnap another 250, mostly civilians.
The Daily Mail report came as British Jews were on edge amid a spike in antisemitic incidents and sustained displays of anti-Israel sentiment in London since Hamas’s October 7 attacks. Data from the Community Security Trust, a Jewish security group, indicated that antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom have risen to record levels since October 7, with 2,093 incidents reported in the 68 days after the attack.
Agencies contributed to this report.