Iran may have decided to execute a British Iranian dual national in protest at UK moves toward potentially labeling a special branch of its armed forces a terror group, a former diplomat said on Saturday.
Iran said earlier it hanged Alireza Akbari after he was sentenced to death for spying for the United Kingdom, prompting international condemnation.
Richard Dalton, the UK ambassador to Iran from 2003-2006, said pressure to add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to a list of banned terrorist organizations might have influenced the timing of Akbari’s execution.
He said there were two potential reasons why the Iranian regime — which has been shaken by anti-government protests in recent months — may have gone ahead at this time.
“First, giving a strong message, a strong signal to their own people, and anybody else tempted to work with people whom the Iranian government regards as their enemies should think again, because this is the kind of fate that awaits them,” the former diplomat told Times Radio.
“Secondly, there’s a decision pending in the UK as to whether to make the [IRGC]… a terrorist organization under British law.
“It is possible that they want to assert their right to protest against that in advance,” he said
British MPs voted this week in favor of adding the IRGC to a list of banned terrorist organizations in the UK.
The motion put forward by a backbench member of parliament is non-binding on the government and ministers are still considering the matter.
Senior members of the ruling Conservative Party, including former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, have been urging ministers to take a harder line on the IRGC.