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UK New Police Unit To Counter Iran, Russia, China Ahead Of Election

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A new unit has been established in the British police to deal with threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia and China ahead of the UK’s general election.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, the UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing, announced on Friday that the new unit will be dedicated to specialist investigations regarding the increasing security challenges presented by the three countries.

“I don’t want to be coy. We are talking about parts of the state apparatus of Iran, China and Russia,” said Jukes, further adding that the threats of hostile states are considered to be “greater now than since the days of the Cold War.”

The new police unit will exercise the powers set forth in a national security act passed last year. The act was introduced to counter attempts made by certain foreign states to interfere with the UK’s political affairs, steal confidential trade information, and spy.

“We will be the most overt part of the UK security community stepping up its response to those hostile state actions,” Jukes stressed in reference to the new specialist investigations unit in the British police.

Though no exact date has been set for the next general election, it is expected to be held in the second half of 2024. In the upcoming election the voters will choose the members of the House of Commons, thereby determining the next government. The unprecedented volumes of online misinformation have raised concerns among the British security officials ahead of the election.

Earlier in November, Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) reported that Iran, Russia and China are likely to plan to influence the upcoming elections in the United States and other countries in 2024.

“Election infrastructure, campaigns, and voters” are expected to be targeted by “authoritarian regimes,” Microsoft warned.

The report also confirmed that Iran has intensified its cyberattacks and influence operations since 2020, targeting Israel and other countries. In December 2023, Iran-linked hackers targeted a water facility in the rural area of County Mayo in Ireland, leaving the residents without water for two days. The attack was carried out by pro-Iran Cyber Av3ngers group which claimed that the facility was attacked because it used an Israeli-made piece of equipment.

Jukes also warned of the conspiracies to assassinate political dissidents on British soil, specifically referring to the 15 direct threats linked to the Islamic Republic over the past two years to target opposition figures.

Iran International, headquartered in London revealed in November 2022 that the IRGC was plotting to assassinate two Iran International television anchors in the UK amid Iranian anti-government protests. Subsequently, Iran International stopped its broadcast operations in London and temporarily moved its studios to Washington DC. In mid-2023, the network relocated to a more secure facility in London.

Police vehicles protecting Iran International’s headquarters in London in Nov. 2022

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires after assuming office and warned that Iran must be sent “an incredibly clear message that this escalation will not be tolerated.”

In February 2023, an Austrian national named Mohammad-Hussein Dovtaev was detained while filming outside the network’s premises. The Central Criminal Court of England sentenced Dovtaev to 3.5 years behind bars for attempting to collect information “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”

Jukes also alarmingly described the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas as a “radicalization moment” which can drive some people towards terrorism.

“This is not simply rhetoric. In my seat, you tend to look at dashboards of indicators … And right now, there are needles on that dashboard that are moving in the wrong direction,” the UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing warned.

In October 2023, Ken McCallum, the Director-General of MI5, the UK’s security service, stated that amid the war between Iran-backed Hamas and Israel, the Islamic Republic may be exploring new ways to threaten the security of Britain.

“Iran has been a rising source of concern and a rising source of task for MI5 over the last 18 months or so in particular,” he then said.

The Times warned in October that Iranian agents are stirring up unrest in the UK through Gaza protests.

There is direct involvement of the Iranian regime through the physical presence of operatives at protests as well as through disinformation campaigns conducted online, the newspaper said.