Individual Sentenced After Hostile Reconnaissance at Iran International UK Headquarters

Jan 2, 2024 | State Threat, Threat Analysis, Threat Landscape

Author: Oliver Hair ASyI,
Threat Analyst

Read Time: 3 minutes 

On 22 December 2023, an individual was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for attempting to collect information useful to a terrorist.[1] The individual conducted hostile reconnaissance at the headquarters of Iran International, a dissident Iranian television station, in West London. Reporting suggests that the individual recorded security arrangements at the venue on his phone as part of a plot to conduct a terrorist attack.[2] Prosecutors did not suggest that the individual aimed to conduct or participate in the attack himself.

Prosecutor Nicholas De La Poer KC stated that the television broadcaster had become a target of the Iranian state following its reporting of protests in Iran in 2023.[3] Iran had previously declared the company a terrorist organisation.[4] The individual’s visit was reportedly the most recent in a series of at least three incidents of hostile reconnaissance recorded at the site since the beginning of summer in 2022.[5] In February 2023, Iran International relocated to the US following advice from the Metropolitan Police, who had warned of serious safety concerns for the broadcaster’s staff in the UK.[6]

Assessment

    • It is almost certain that the Iranian regime would seek to extend its influence and threaten UK-based individuals through a highly capable and extensive network of covert assets and proxy groups that seek to subvert and influence the stability and prosperity of the UK.
      • It is almost certain that Iran would prioritise the targeting of individuals in the UK who are critical of the Iranian regime, rather than property. In February 2023, the head of Counter Terrorism Policing Matt Jukes reported that there had been 15 Iranian plots by Iran to kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals since January 2022.[7]
        • There is a realistic possibility that there could be a heightened threat from Iran to certain individuals and organisations in the UK as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues. Iran is a direct sponsor and ally of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK, and has previously provided training and weapons to the group.[8] Although not officially confirmed, media reporting suggests that Iran had a role in the 07 October 2023 attack on Israel conducted by Hamas.[9]
          •  There is a realistic possibility that the above incident could lead to the UK proscription of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an Iranian state military and intelligence capability. Throughout 2023, both Labour and Conservative politicians urged the UK government to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. However, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) have emphasised that proscription of the group “would mean that could have no direct diplomatic relations with Iran”.
            • Individuals in the UK have previously demonstrated the intent and capability to conduct covert and malicious activity for hostile states, including:
              • 2023 – A terror suspect escaped from Wandsworth prison in London while awaiting trial for offences, including; collecting information useful to the enemy, alleged to be Iran; eliciting information about members of the armed forces likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism; and perpetrating a bomb hoax. The individual was later recaptured and is currently awaiting trial. Prosecutors have claimed that the individual passed sensitive material to Iranian intelligence.[11]
              •  2023 – Five individuals were charged with “conspiring to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy for the purpose prejudicial to the safety and interest of the state” between August 2020 and February 2023. The accused are alleged to have been working in an operational spy cell for the Russian state.[12]
              •  2023 – A UK parliamentary researcher was arrested under anti-espionage laws amid claims he was spying for China. Media reporting suggests that the researcher had access to several Conservative MPs. The individual has since claimed he is “completely innocent”. The investigation continues.[13]

              Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 02 January 2024

              PHIA Scale

              The “Probability Yardstick” (below) is a standardised instrument used to provide professional intelligence assessments. Judgements made using the yardstick are relative and reflect the analyst’s confidence in their findings and assessments.

                • Almost Certain: An event is assessed to have a greater than 90% chance of occurring.
                • Highly Likely: An event is assessed to have a 76% to 90% chance of occurring.
                • Likely: An event is assessed to have a 55% to 75% chance of occurring.
                • Realistic Possibility: An event is assessed to have a 40% to 54% chance of occurring.
                • Unlikely: An event is assessed to have a 25% to 39% chance of occurring.
                • Highly Unlikely: An event is assessed to have an 10% to 24% chance of occurring.
                • Remote Chance: An event is assessed to have a less than 10% chance of occurring.

                Time Spans

                  • Short Term: 0 – 6 Months.
                  • In the next 12 months.
                  • Medium Term: 12 months – 5 Years.
                  • Long Term: 5+ Years.

              Author: Oliver Hair ASyI,
              Threat Analyst

              Read Time: 3 minutes

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