In a bombshell report that appeared in the Daily Telegraph of London on Sunday, it appears that a major cover up of terrorist activities took place to protect the legitimacy of former President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal. The Daily Telegraph reported that in following a tip-off from a foreign government, police and the MI5 intelligence service raided four properties on the outskirts of London on Sept. 30, 2015, and discovered three metric tons of ammonium nitrate, concealed in disposable ice packs.
A man in his forties was arrested on suspicion of plotting terrorism, but was eventually released without charges. The paper quoted “well placed sources” as saying that “the plot had been disrupted by a covert intelligence operation rather than seeking a prosecution.”
The Telegraph said that there were no signs that Britain would have been a target of the future attacks.
Ynet News reported on Monday that Israeli officials confirmed that the Mossad intelligence agency provided information that led British law enforcement to thwart the 2015 plot Hezbollah to attack targets in the UK.
The Times of Israel indicated that the report said the arrest came just months after the UK joined the US and other world powers in signing the Iran nuclear deal and speculated that it was hushed up to avoid derailing the agreement with Tehran, which is the main supporter of the Lebanese Hezbollah group.
“It raises questions about whether senior UK government figures chose not to reveal the plot in part because they were invested in keeping the Iran nuclear deal afloat,” the paper said.
Britain joined the U.S., France, Germany, Russia, and China in the marathon talks that produced the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal in the summer of 2015.
The JCPOA was finalized 11 weeks before the raids in the London outskirts, and the agreement less than four months after the raids, as was reported on the CNS web site.
President Trump has since pulled the US out of the deal and hit Iran with fresh sanctions.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the London plot was part of a larger plan by Hezbollah to attack targets around the world. Similar plots were foiled in Thailand, Cyprus and New York, according to the Ynet news report.
The Telegraph said the Cyprus case was strikingly similar to the one in London. In 2015 in Cyprus, confessed Hezbollah agent Hussein Bassam Abdallah was sentenced to six years in jail after he was found with 8.2 tons of ammonia nitrate in his home. He had reportedly planned to attack Israeli targets.
The Telegraph indicated that the information that it garnered came after a three-month investigation in which more than 30 current and former officials in Britain, America and Cyprus were approached and court documents were obtained, according to a Times of Israel report.
Sources told the Telegraph that the British plot was in its very early stages and no targets had been selected. The report said British intelligence had hoped to establish what Hezbollah was planning and did not disrupt the plot immediately.
“MI5 worked independently and closely with international partners to disrupt the threat of malign intent from Iran and its proxies in the UK,” a UK intelligence source told the paper.
“The Security Service and police work tirelessly to keep the public safe from a host of national security threats. Necessarily, their efforts and success will often go unseen,” said Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace.
Reporter Patrick Goodenough of the CNS site wrote that in the U.S., the Obama administration opposed attempts by Republican lawmakers to link Iran’s support for terrorism to the nuclear negotiations.
According to the Telegraph report, then-Prime Minister David Cameron and then-Home Secretary – later prime minister – Theresa May were reportedly informed about the discovery of the ammonium nitrate.
In Goodenough’s searing investigative piece, he reported that in 2012, a Hezbollah operative apprehended in Thailand led police to a cache of bomb-making material, including ammonium nitrate stored in ice-packs.
More recently, ammonium nitrate stored in ice-packs were featured in court documents relating to indictments against two men on trial in the U.S. for Hezbollah-related terror activity.
Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer that has become a popular ingredient for terrorist bombs.
Goodenough reported that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in the device he built in 1995. That bomb, which killed 168 people, comprised 2.2 tons of the mixture – less than the amount reportedly discovered in Britain.
Ammonium nitrate has also been used in other major terrorist attacks, including the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israel Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. Investigators implicated Hezbollah and senior Iranian regime officials in that plot.
A decade ago, its use in homemade bombs deployed against U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan became so pervasive that its possession and sale was outlawed in Afghanistan and parts of north-west Pakistan, as was reported in Goodenough’s CNS piece.
Hezbollah was established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war and fought a 2006 war with Israel. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, regularly threatens to target Israel with thousands of advanced missiles that can reach all major Israeli cities, according to the Times of Israel report.
The group is considered a terror organization by Israel, the US and the Arab League. The European Union and Australia only designate the group’s military wing as such.
TOI reported that Hezbollah has been blamed for a string of attacks against Israelis including the 2012 attack on a bus load of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria that killed five, and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29.
Britain blacklisted Hezbollah’s military wing in 2008 but had until now made no move against its political wing, according to the TOI report.
TOI also reported that British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK now believes that any distinction between its military and political wings “does not exist.”
Goodenough reported that Joan Ryan, an independent member of the House of Commons, asked Home Secretary Sajid Javid in a letter Monday why details of the September 2015 raid had not been made public.
“Can you confirm that nobody in Government ordered this information to be withheld from the public because of its sensitivity due to Iran’s funding and support for Hezbollah and the recent conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal?” she asked.
Ryan, who for years campaigned for Britain to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group – in its entirety, rather than just its purported “military wing” – also wanted to know why the government resisted that move until early this year, even though it was aware in 2015 of its apparent terrorist plotting in the U.K.
Ryan is one of eight members of parliament who resigned from the opposition Labour Party this year over unhappiness over left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn’s performance, including his handling of allegations of anti-Semitism in the party.
UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn who once referred to Hezbollah as his “friends,” said the Home Office had not provided evidence to justify its change in stance on the Iran-backed organization’s political wing, according to the TOI report.
“Decisions on the proscription of organizations as terror groups are supposed to be made on the advice of civil servants based on clear evidence that those organizations fall foul of the proscription criteria set out in legislation,” Labor said in a statement.
Back in March of this year, Al Jazeera reported that Hezbollah had said that Britain is acting as a “subordinate that serves the American master” after London had seriously debated a ban of the terror group.
Hezbollah also said: “UK’s decision is an insult to the feelings, sympathies and will of the Lebanese people that consider Hezbollah a major political and popular force represented in the Lebanese parliament and cabinet.”
Al Jazeera reported back in March that Three ministers in Lebanon’s government are affiliated with Hezbollah, including the health minister. Despite pressure from the US, which did not want the cash-rich ministry to fall to Hezbollah, the group succeeded in putting its man in the position.
Jamal Jabak, the new health minister, used to be the personal physician of Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah and is seen to be close to him.
The Al Jazeera reported that His appointment irked Washington, which had warned there would be “consequences”. Analysts close to Hezbollah see the UK’s decision partly as fallout from Jabak’s appointment.
Amal Saad, professor of political science at the Lebanese University and author of a book on Hezbollah, said there were other reasons behind Britain’s move, including domestic politics.
Al Jazera reported in March that Bente Scheller, director of the Heinrich Boll Foundation’s Middle East office in Beirut, said the UK had little leverage left over the EU.
“The decision to ban the military wing in the past was driven by the UK. But with a looming Brexit I think the UK is in a weaker position in the EU to lobby for this,” Scheller said.
According to a petition on the change.org web site which calls for Hezbollah to be officially banned in the United Kingdom, the British based statement read: “Enough is enough. If Britain is to genuinely say “no to terror” then all terrorist organizations must be banned without compromise. Following the Arab League and United States in proscribing Hezbollah is one simple step that the UK Government can take in ensuring that extremism will not be tolerated in this country.”