US welcomes Britain’s Expansion of Iran Sanctions, as it assumes Security Council Presidency

“Iran has increased its efforts to kill or kidnap individuals perceived to be enemies of the regime outside of Iran, including in the UK,” Cleverly said.
The flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran flying at United Nations headquarters in New York (Photo: UN Photo/Loey Felipe)
The flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran flying at United Nations headquarters in New York (Photo: UN Photo/Loey Felipe)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – On Thursday, Britain announced new sanctions on the Iranian regime. The move, announced by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, comes as the UK assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of July, and it appears as part of a larger British effort, described by Cleverly as driving “international condemnation of Iran’s behavior at the UN this week.”

Almost certainly, the British move is coordinated with Washington. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed Cleverly’s announcement, affirming, “We will continue to stand with the UK and the international community to counter Iran’s destabilizing actions, its proliferation of weapons, its brutal repression at home and its threats against individuals around the world.”

Iranian Intelligence Working with Organized Crime

As Cleverly explained, the Iranian intelligence services are expanding the range of their work abroad by working in concert with criminal networks. 

Cleverly’s comments underscore a key point: two parties do not need to share an ideology to work together. Rather, what is required is a shared interest.

“The Iranian intelligence services,” he said, “have developed close relationships with organized criminal gangs in the UK and across Europe to expand the capability” of their networks. 

Britain’s expansion of Iranian sanctions was prompted, in part, by rising Iranian threats to British citizens and residents.

“Iran has increased its efforts to kill or kidnap individuals perceived to be enemies of the regime outside of Iran, including in the UK,” Cleverly said. 

“Since the start of 2022, the UK has responded to more than 15 credible threats to kill or kidnap British or UK-based individuals by the Iranian regime,” he explained.

Israeli-Russian Researcher Kidnapped in Baghdad

Indeed, Cleverly’s statement came on the same day that it was announced In Jerusalem that an Israeli-Russian Middle East expert, Elizabeth Tsurkov, had been kidnapped earlier this year in Baghdad by an Iranian-backed militia, Kata’ib Hizbollah.

Tsurkov entered Iraq on her Russian passport in January to do academic research, as she is a graduate student at Princeton University and working on a Ph.D. She is also a research fellow at The New Lines Institute, which is based in Washington DC.

In addition, as The New York Times explained, “She is the daughter of political dissidents who were jailed by the Soviet authorities after working alongside Natan Sharansky, a prominent activist who campaigned for Soviet Jews to be allowed to emigrate to Israel.” 

Tsurkov had visited Iraq over ten times, according to Iraqi officials, the Times said, and Israeli authorities had warned her that such travel was dangerous. She was kidnapped in March.

Iranian intelligence has also sought to kill or kidnap Americans, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as the Iranian-American journalist, Masih Alinejad.

Read More: Iran plotted to assassinate Bolton, Pompeo

New Human Rights Sanctions—include head of Kurdistan Province Prisons

The new British measures include an expanded list of Iranian officials to be sanctioned for human rights violations. Many of the individuals on the list are involved with Iran’s prison system.

They include Murad Fathi, Director-General of Kurdistan Province Prisons. The US sanctioned Fathi in October 2022, and the European Union (EU), as well as Canada, did so in February 2023. Now, Britain has done so.

Also sanctioned was Mohammed Hossein Khosravi, Director-General of Sistan and Baluchistan Province Prisons and former warden of Zahedan Prison.

Zahedan is the capital of the province, which is predominantly Baluch. The Baluch are a traditional, tribal people, and they are Sunnis. They have long been in revolt against the Shi’ite regime in Tehran.

Indeed, before reaching the 1975 Algiers accord, which divided the riverine border between Iran and Iraq, the Shah had supported the Kurds, while Saddam Hussein’s regime had supported the Baluch.

With the accord, that support ended. The Kurdish leadership, betrayed, found refuge in the US; the Baluch leadership went to Baghdad. 

Cleverly’s statement also described the Iran-related issues on which the UK would focus in its role as Security Council chair. 

They include “Iran’s weapons proliferation and nuclear escalation,” as well as its arms supplies “to the Houthis in Yemen and to Russia for use in Ukraine,” he said.