What is a Cobra meeting? Rishi Sunak holds emergency meeting to discuss threat of domestic terrorism

(Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

An urgent Cobra conference is being presided over by Rishi Sunak amid concerns that the Middle East crisis between Israel and Hamas may be exacerbating the possibility of domestic terrorism in Britain.

According to Whitehall insiders, the PM will gather Home Secretary Suella Braverman, police, and national security officials in Downing Street on Monday, October 30.

It follows Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley's warning that combat in the Middle East is "accelerating" the threat of terrorism, which was prompted by Hamas' October 7 strike.

The current UK terror threat level for England, Wales, and Scotland is "substantial," which indicates that an attack is likely, but sources have indicated that it may soon rise to "severe".

Five tiers of threat exist:

low - an attack is highly unlikely

moderate - an attack is possible but not likely

substantial - an attack is likely

severe - an attack is highly likely

critical - an attack is highly likely in the near future

What is a cobra meeting?

According to the Institute for Government, the goal of a Cobra meeting is to talk about high-level coordination and decision-making during a crisis.

However, Rishi Sunak isn't required to attend a Cobra meeting, unlike a Cabinet meeting, which brings together frontbenchers and the prime minister.

Numerous events could trigger the crisis, such as severe industrial mishaps, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and public health risks such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir Mark, the head of the Met Police, has also expressed alarm over "state threats from Iran".

The nation backs the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah, which are based in Lebanon and have fought Israel, which has caused worries that other Middle Eastern nations may become involved in the conflict.

The sources stated that the Cobra conference will take into account evidence suggesting Iranian agents could be inciting pro-Palestinian protests in Britain in order to cause trouble.

In light of rumours that Iran is trying to sow discord through large-scale rallies in London, Foreign Secretary Cleverly has advised pro-Palestine activists to be "aware of misinformation and manipulation".

What does COBRA stand for?

Cobra is an abbreviation for a group of rooms located at 70 Whitehall, the Cabinet Office. The acronym COBR, which stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room, may be used to refer to it occasionally.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and the Security Service determine the terror threat, even though Cobra meetings may discuss it.

What do the Cabinet Office do?

The Cabinet Office are accountable for making sure that policies are developed, coordinated, and carried out effectively and managing the UK's cyber security, assisting the Joint Intelligence Organisation and the National Security Council, and coordinating the government's crisis response.

They also encourage the public distribution of government data and increase the transparency of government operations.

When was the first cabinet office briefing room meeting?

In order to supervise the government's response to the 1972 miners' strike, the first COBRA meeting was held in the 1970s.