A Duty to Protect: The Failure of UK Sanctions Against Iran and the Necessity of Proscribing the IRGC

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A Duty to Protect: The Failure of UK Sanctions Against Iran and the Necessity of Proscribing the IRGC

18th July 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

As global terrorism surges with every passing year, calls for the UK to proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation have become more vocal and determined, but to little effect. Government ministers have consistently deflected inquiries on proscription by referring to the heavy sanctions regime the UK already imposes on the IRGC. Sanctions, though, carry neither the same impact nor the same force of law as does the proscription, which broadly criminalises terror groups and imposes criminal penalties on anyone who associates with them. The Iranian government has been behind 15 credible threats to kill or kidnap British citizens or UK-based individuals in the past year alone, yet the IRGC practically operates with impunity in the UK. The UK government’s recent call for increased sanctions and its continued evasiveness in committing to proscription in the face of the IRGC’s growing threat profile can arguably be deemed a dereliction of the government’s “Duty to Protect” the British public, founded in the English Common Law tradition and extended to the present day. To fully exercise its “Duty to Protect”, the Government must now proscribe the IRGC and bring the full force of British law to bear upon them.

The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to gather a panel of experts to discuss its latest report, where its author, Elizabeth Samson, presents the IRGC terror threats and puts forward the important recommendations on how the government should tackle them.




Ms. Elizabeth Samson holds a Juris Doctor from Fordham Law School (NY-USA), an LL.M. in International & European Law from the University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law, a B.A. in Political Science from Queens College, and a Certificate in Management from the Wharton School.

Prior to joining HJS, Ms. Samson served as a policy and political consultant, as well as a Consulting Director at the White House Writers Group and a Visiting Fellow at the Washington DC based Hudson Institute. Ms. Samson has authored several peer-reviewed legal publications on topics of comparative international law and humanitarian law. Her writings have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Washington Times, and the New York Post.



After a career in the Intelligence Corps focused on the Middle East, Jonathan Campbell-James headed a global bank’s coverage of political and financial crime risks in the MENA region from Dubai, and then conducted forensic investigations in the region for a leading consulting company. Jonathan writes regularly on political and security matters affecting the Middle East, and assists companies with complex due diligence and integrity issues.



For more than 15 years, Vahid Beheshti has been highlighting Iran’s Human Rights violations and has worked tirelessly on countering extremism. Vahid worked closely with Paris-based renowned journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was kidnapped by the IRGC, and ultimately executed in Iran. In the past three months, Vahid went on a 72-day hunger strike, starting in February, camping outside the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) building, with the urgent call on the UK government to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Vahid’s campaign found great political backing and support from activists internationally and from within Iran. 125 MPs supported his campaign and wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, urging him to proscribe the IRGC. Vahid’s non-partisan approach has made him a central figure in the movement to unite all opposition groups of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is in line with his belief that the only solution to for the terrorist regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is for all opposition groups to come together.



Nicola Richards MP was elected as the Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East in December 2019. She currently serves as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt MP.

After being elected to Parliament, she has been a member of both the Education Select Committee and the Women and Equalities Select Committee. She is currently the Conservative Party’s representative on the International Young Democratic Union. After graduating from the University of Birmingham, Nicola worked in public relations for the Jewish Leadership Council and the Holocaust Educational Trust.





The Henry Jackson Society was delighted to be welcomed into Parliament by Nicola Richards MP, to launch Research Fellow, Elizabeth Samson’s report titled, A Duty to Protect: The Failure of UK Sanctions Against Iran and the Necessity of Proscribing the IRGC. Elizabeth was joined on a panel alongside Jonathan Campbell-James and Vahid Beheshti. Ms Richards stated that she was one of various MPs from across the house to express support for proscription of the IRGC. This was followed by Elizabeth Samson providing an overview of the findings of her report. In particular, she highlighted the necessity of reinterpreting the Terrorism Act in order to allow for the proscription of state-actors onto the UK terrorist list. Additionally, she raised the assertion that sanctions do not carry the same impact or force of law than proscription, suggesting that Iran has found various ways to bypass sanctions. This notion was strongly supported by Jonathan Campbell-James who blamed the UK government’s inability to proscribe the IRGC on an ‘institutional stasis’, citing the ‘socialisation’ of UK foreign policy with other allies as a key factor behind the moderation of the government’s policy on Iran. Vahid Beheshti even went as far as describing the government’s Iran policy as an ‘appeasement policy’ on an Iranian regime which has continuously violated international agreements and is father to designated terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. There was clear consensus that the government must step up and proscribe the IRGC as a designated terrorist group before it is too late.




Committee Room 17, House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA United Kingdom
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Elizabeth Samson, Jonathan Campbell-James, Vahid Beheshti, Nicola Richards MP


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