In November 2022, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum reported that his organization had uncovered at least 10 “potential threats” to “kidnap or even kill British or U.K.-based individuals perceived as enemies” of the Iranian regime. At the time, MI5 did not specify the targets, but on February 17, the London-based, Saudi-financed Iran International television channel relocated its headquarters to Washington, DC. Coverage of this story in Iran’s state-censored media provided contradictory analyses concerning the cause of the relocation, but the intense interest of Iranian authorities in the fate of Iran International testifies to the efficacy of the network, whose role in recent protests in Iran has been similar to that of Al Jazeera television during the Arab Spring uprisings.
- February 17: Fardad Farahzad, an Iran International anchor, tweeted: “Iran International TV stopped broadcasting its programs from London because of ‘imminent and urgent threats’ on Friday evening and transferred all its 24-hour news bulletins to Washington.”
- February 18: Pro-regime political commentator Ali Samadzadeh tweeted: “Transfer of the 24-hour news bulletins of the Saudi Iran International network from London to Washington is by British initiative. The radical approach of this network is damaging the British political-security presence in Iran, but since there are not relations between Washington and Tehran, the Americans do not face a similar challenge.” His claims, however, cannot be independently corroborated.
- February 22: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Chief Commander Major General Hossein Salami was quoted by Tasnim News Agency regarding the relocation of Iran International’s headquarters, saying: “This villainous, lying, and irreverent medium was thrown into a new realm, which shows the sphere of the revolution’s influence and power.”
- February 23: Tabnak News, an outlet close to former IRGC Chief Commander Mohsen Rezaei, commented: “It is not unlikely that the Saudis, as usual, may use this television network as a bargaining chip when negotiating the restoration of Iranian-Saudi relations in the not-so-distant future. But the Saudis may also engage in the more dangerous game and make Iran pay for it.”
- February 24: Hamshahri Online, claiming to quote an anonymous Iran International employee, wrote that the station’s move to relocate to Washington was not due to threats but the Intelligence Ministry’s attempts at recruiting Iran International employees: “Iranian Intelligence Ministry officials began contacting employees of Persian-language television networks in London, saying they would receive amnesty and be allowed to return to Iran if they cooperated with the ministry … It is not known how many employees began cooperating with members of Iran’s security services, but some of them informed executives at the organization and British authorities of the contacts after which the station decided to relocate to Washington … There was no fear of assassination of regular employees.” The information provided by Hamshahri cannot be independently corroborated.