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Debate: Iran Is Not Our Enemy

Instead of sabre-rattling against Iran and treating it as an enemy, should we instead pursue a policy of engagement and diplomacy?

Don’t trust the scaremongers. The US government and its allies in Israel and the Gulf States would have us all believe that Iran poses the single biggest threat to the stability of the Middle East through its expansionist drive to build a ‘Shia crescent’ of Iranian hegemony across the region. That was the thinking behind the assassination in January of General Qasem Soleimani — but nothing could be further from the truth. Iran is a proud nation whose attitudes towards the West have been shaped by decades of domination and interference, including the 1953 removal of its democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, in a UK-US-orchestrated coup. This, as well as the bloody experience of the Iran–Iraq War when the country stood alone for eight years against Saddam Hussein, has left many Iranians with a firm mistrust of the West. Instead of our frequent sabre-rattling against Iran and treating it as an enemy, we should instead pursue a policy of engagement and diplomacy. We had a chance to show goodwill by easing sanctions when Iran was hit early by Covid-19. We missed that opportunity for reconciliation. We must seize the next chance.

That’s the view of the dovish Middle East peaceniks. But it’s a complete misunderstanding of the way Iran and its ruling mullahs think or operate. The Iranian regime is the world’s most preeminent exporter of violence. It sponsors countless terrorist groups around the world, including Hezbollah which has thousands of rockets pointed at Israel, Houthi rebels sowing chaos in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and Shia militia in Iraq which have killed scores of British and American soldiers and have committed horrific atrocities against Sunni citizens. Iran has propped up the murderous Assad regime and allowed Syrian forces to massacre hundreds of thousands of civilians. Its fanatical theocratic leaders have promised to annihilate Israel on multiple occasions — a chilling genocidal threat — and it has restarted a nuclear programme whose clear intention is to develop nuclear weapons. The regime in Tehran is a menace to its people, its neighbours and everyone else. It must be defeated, for all our sakes.


Speakers

Speakers For The Motion

Mehdi Hasan

Journalist and broadcaster


Journalist and broadcaster. He is the host of UpFront and Head To Head on Al Jazeera English, as well as a columnist for The Intercept and Contributing Editor for the New Statesman.

Azadeh Moaveni

Writer, journalist, and academic


Writer, journalist, and academic. She is the author of three bestselling books on Iran, including Lipstick Jihad, Iran Awakening and most recently, Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS, shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford prize. She has reported on the Middle East for two decades. She is a lecturer in journalism at New York University, London, and is the Director of the Gender Project at the International Crisis Group.
Speakers Against The Motion

Salman al-Ansari

Independent Saudi politcal analyst


Independent Saudi politcal analyst & the founder of the Washington DC-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC).

Daniel Hannan

Former Conservative MEP for South East England


Former Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South East England, who was a prominent campaigner for Brexit. He is a prolific journalist and author of nine books, including A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe.
Chair

Lyse Doucet

The BBC's chief international correspondent


The BBC’s Chief International Correspondent, who played a key role in the BBC's coverage of the wars in Syria and Yemen and has covered all the major stories in the region for the past 20 years.

 

Speakers are subject to change.