Britain's foreign secretary has vowed to work with allies to counter Iran which he accused of "spreading bloodshed and destruction," as the Iranian clerical regime grapples with the biggest protest movement in years.
"Iranian-supplied weapons threaten the entire region," James Cleverly told the annual Manama Dialogue conference on November 19, adding: "The regime has resorted to selling Russia the armed drones that are killing civilians in Ukraine."
Kyiv and its Western backers accuse Tehran of having supplied Russia with drones used to carry out attacks in Ukraine. Tehran has admitted it had supplied drones, but insisted they were sent before Russia started its invasion of Ukraine in February.
"As their people demonstrate against decades of oppression, Iran's rulers are spreading bloodshed and destruction across the region and as far away as Kyiv," Cleverly said.
"Britain is determined to work alongside our friends to counter the Iranian threat."
The previous day, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the same conference that Iran's "weapons proliferation" is a threat to Europe.
Earlier this week, the EU and Britain hit dozens of senior Iranian officials and entities with sanctions over the supply of drones to Russia and Tehran's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Iran has been gripped by a wave of demonstrations since the September death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in the custody of Tehran’s morality police. The unrest triggered a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces in which more than 340 people were killed, including dozens of children. Thousands of people have also been arrested. Five people have so far been sentenced to death over the protests.
Iranian officials have portrayed the unrest as a foreign plot without offering evidence. Iran stepped up attacks on exiled Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq in September, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) accusing them of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest." The Kurdish groups deny the Iranian allegations.
Amid increased regional tensions, a senior Iranian military official on November 14 arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on an unannounced two-day visit.
During his visit, Ismail Qaani, the commander Iran’s Quds Force, an elite unit within the IRGC, threatened Iraq with a ground military operation in the country’s north if the Iraqi army does not fortify the countries’ shared border against Kurdish opposition groups, AP quoted Iraqi and Kurdish officials as saying.