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Peace and Conflict

UK announces new sanctions on Iran and Palestinian terror groups | Update 15 December 2023

UK announces new sanctions on Iran and Palestinian terror groups via BICom

Sanctions against Iran: On Thursday, the UK government announced new sanctions on Iran have now come into force.

  • According to the government announcement, the new sanctions gives the UK “extensive new powers to disrupt Iran’s hostile activities in the UK and around the world.”
  • They target “Iran’s decision makers” and “the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and individuals linked to Iran’s relationship with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).”
  • Part of the sanctions also focus specifically on Iran’s drone programme and naval activity.
  • Foreign Secretary David Cameron said, “the behaviour of the Iranian regime poses an unacceptable threat to the UK and our partners. It continues to threaten people on UK soil and uses its influence to destabilise the Middle East through its support to armed groups, including Hamas and PIJ.”
  • The UK also announced that in coordination with the US, “the first set of designations under this new regime, targeting Iran’s support for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad... includes Esmail Qaani, who heads the IRGC Quds Force… A further seven individuals and one entity, all with links to Hamas and PIJ,” were also designated.
  • Sanctions include a travel ban on those designated, and “an asset freeze preventing any UK citizen, or any business in the UK, from dealing with any funds or economic resources which are owned, held or controlled by the designated person. It is also prevent[ing] funds or economic resources being provided to or for the benefit of the designated person.”

Sanctions against Hamas and PIJ: On Wednesday the UK, (also) in coordination with the US announced new sanctions “to isolate terror group[s]”.

  • The new sanctions aim to freeze assets and impose travel bans. The government explained, “the sanctions target key figures in the network that has financed Hamas, including individuals in Lebanon and Algeria. These stringent measures show that individuals linked to Hamas will not be able to escape accountability, even if they are operating from outside of Gaza.” 
  • Foreign Secretary Cameron declared, “Hamas has no future in Gaza.”
  • The UK named seven individuals linked to Hamas to be sanctioned:
    • Mahmoud Zahar: a Gaza-based Hamas leader and co-founder.
    • Ali Baraka: the Lebanon-based Head of External Relations for Hamas.
    • Maher Obeid: a political leader who has held senior positions in Hamas.
    • Akram al-Ajouri: the Syria-based Deputy Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Leader of the Al-Quds Brigades, PIJ’s military wing.
    • Khaled Chouman and Rida Ali Khamis: who have channelled funds to Hamas through their Lebanon-based currency exchanges.
    • Aiman Ahmad Al Duwaik: an Algeria-based financier for Hamas who has helped run the organisation’s overseas investment portfolio.” I think we can lose the quote marks here

 Context: The dual sanctioning of Iran and Palestinian terror groups, is a further indicator of the unity of the US-UK-Israel alliance and the shared threat assessment of Iran.

  • With so much world attention on Gaza, the sanctions against Iran come as a timely reminder that it was Iran that provides Hamas and PIJ with much of their weapons and technological military support.
  • Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen are also both supported by Iran, and Iranian drones are proliferated across the region as well as supplied to the Russian military.           
  • The concern remains that with the spotlight away from Iran they could be making critical progress on their nuclear enrichment.
  • In its announcement, the UK government further noted, “the Iranian regime’s activities undermining peace, stability and security in the Middle East and internationally” include “the use and spread of weapons or weapons technologies from Iran.”
  • UK sanctions were developed in the summer, “to respond to unprecedented threats from the Iranian regime, including efforts to undermine peace and security across the Middle East and plots to kill individuals on UK soil.”
  • The government announcement noted, sSince the start of 2022, the UK has responded more than 15 credible threats and plots to kill British or UK-based individuals by the Iranian regime. The regime has publicly called for the killing of these individuals and in some cases detained and harassed the individual’s families in Iran.”
  • The UK proscribed Hamas’s military wing as a terrorist group in March 2001, and extended it to include the whole organisation in November 2021.
  • Although the UK abstained in both recent UN Security Council and General Assembly votes calling for immediate ceasefire, Simon Walters the UK Ambassador in Israel clarified in a recent interview, “we don’t use that term [ceasefire], we say that the sooner the war ends, the better, but we haven’t called for a ceasefire because we know that the task of destroying Hamas is still not over.”
  • The UK further declared that along with the US, they “stand united in their solidarity with Israel and its fight against Hamas, while being clear their actions must be in line with International Humanitarian Law. We continue to support efforts to prevent a regional escalation of the conflict and allow crucial humanitarian aid access to Gaza.”
  • When Cameron visited last month, he announced the UK would give a further £30 million in humanitarian aid to the UN. In addition the UK has already sent 51 tonnes of aid to the region.
  • This latest announcement builds on last month’s when the UK, “targeted Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, along with other top-ranking officials and financiers. Sanctions form part of a wider tranche of measures aimed at disrupting the group’s acts of terror, including the recently announced international taskforce set up to enable the UK and partners to share financial intelligence.”
  • In an apparent effort for balance, Cameron also announced measures to be taken against violent Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Similar to the US, the UK would also institute a travel ban against “those responsible for settler violence from entering the UK.” He wrote on X that, “extremist settlers, by targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, are undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel must take stronger action to stop settler violence and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
  • In parallel, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was the latest senior US official to visit Israel and conduct close coordination meetings with the Israeli leadership. On Thursday night he met Mossad Director David Barnea, where they focused on the “triple-layered” strategic threat from Iran, nuclear, regional proxies and partners and their support for terrorism.
  • The UK’s Maritime Trade Operation (UKMTO) continues to note attacks by Iranian backed Houthis on cargo ships passing the Yemeni coastline. Israel has called for a combined international solution to the threats against the commercial shipping lanes. 

Looking ahead: These new sanctions will give the UK government, “new powers to hold Iran and its decision makers to account.”

  • The government reiterated that, “membership and expressing support for Hamas is an illegal act in the UK, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.”
  • Despite both the UK and US’s desire to see an end of the fighting in Gaza, Defence Minister Gallant cautioned Sullivan that in order to dismantle Hamas, which had been built for years solely for terrorist goals, it would take more than a few months

via BICom