The Director General of Britain’s internal intelligence service, MI5, Ken McCallum, has said the country faces in Russia, China, and Iran “adversaries who have massive scale and are not squeamish about the tactics they deploy.”
On the eve of the World Cup in Qatar, McCallum used a series of football analogies, saying Russia “thinks nothing of throwing an elbow in the face, and routinely cheats to get its way … they will keep attacking us.”
In a speech at MI5’s Thames House headquarters in London on Wednesday, McCallum said Beijing was “trying to rewrite the rulebook, to buy the league, to recruit our coaching staff to work for them,” and Iran “will only let people support one team and is prepared to use violence against those who don’t toe the line.”
“We’re alive to the risk of these teams loaning players to each other, amplifying their strengths,” said McCallum, pointing out that Iran had been supplying drones to Russia which were “inflicting misery in Ukraine.”
He focused his attention on the threat from Tehran and said there had been at least 10 plots by Iranian intelligence services to kidnap or kill British or “UK-based” people who were “enemies of the regime.”
The UK “must be ready for Russian aggression for years to come,” the boss of MI5 warned as he laid bare the “very real threat” posed by hostile states.
Iran Accused of ‘Completely Unacceptable Activity’
Speaking of the Iranian government’s aggression, he said: “At its sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime. We have seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone. We work at pace with domestic and international partners to disrupt this completely unacceptable activity.”
With Moscow’s armed forces increasingly bogged down in Ukraine, McCallum warned: “The serious point is that the UK must be ready for Russian aggression for years to come. Some of that will be covert aggression, for MI5 to detect and tackle. But much of it … will be overt.”
He said 23 Russian spies posing as diplomats had been expelled and 100 Russians were denied diplomatic visas on national security grounds.
McCallum said the growing threat from Russia, China, and Iran was a “huge challenge” but MI5’s main focus remained on terrorism and he said lone wolf attacks remained “fiendishly hard to detect and disrupt.”
He said plots inspired by Islamist ideology still made up 75 percent of MI5’s terrorist caseload and he said 37 late-stage terror attack conspiracies had been disrupted since the start of 2017.
But he said there was evidence that far-right extremists were seeking to “acquire weapons,” including guns, and he warned of an increasing number of “influencers” who “fuel grievances and amplify conspiracy theories.”
PA Media contributed to this report.