On November 1, 2007, the Cambridge Union Society debated the proposition This House Believes that Iran Poses a Serious Threat to the World. After two hours of debate with the participation of over four hundred students, the proposition defended by a leading UK neo-conservative and opposed by CASMII was defeated by a majority vote.
Established in 1805 by the merging of three debating societies, the Cambridge Union is well-known for thought provoking debates on controversial issues. In the course of over two hundred years of its history, it has become a national institution which has inspired the formation of other debating societies. Previous speakers at the Union include the President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, George Galloway (MP), the late U.S President Ronald Reagan, Queen Noor of Jordan, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Michael Howard (ex-Tory leader), Michael Moore, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer Secretary General of NATO and Ahmed Chalabi.
The Union's latest debate on This House Believes that Iran Poses a Serious Threat to the World took place with Matthew Jarvis, Senior Union Officer, Gideon Mailer of the Henry Jackson Society and Douglas Murray, author of "Neoconservatism: Why We Need It", on the proposition panel, and Ghayasuddin Siddiqui leader of the Muslim Parliament, Adam Bott Cambridge debating director and Abbas Edalat, Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics at Imperial College London and CASMII's founder was on the opposition panel.
On the proposition side, Mathew Jarvis argued that the Islamic Republic is not a secular democracy but a theocracy ruled by unelected bodies. He also alleged that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme and funds terrorism in Iraq , and thus is a threat to the world. Gideon Mailer contended that the Islamic Republic is a threat against its own people because of violations of human rights and the treatment of women, gays, ethnic and religious minorities.
On the opposition side, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui read out a carefully written text to debunk all the main arguments used to demonize Iran , including accusations of nuclear weaponization programme and supporting violence in Iraq . He pointed out in particular Iran 's grand offer to the US in 2003 under President Khataemi which included the de facto recognition of Israel by supporting a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Adam Bott challenged the assertion that violations of human rights in Iran in any way make the Islamic republic a threat to the world. He explained how the proposition is based on the imperial outlook to the world which in this day and age should change to a more equitable relationship between nations.
During the subsequent interval, there were a number of contributions, for, against and neutral, from the floor. One drew parallels between the current situation and the 1930's when some political leaders sought to appease Nazi Germany. Another comment, in contrast, challenged the allegation of anti-Semitism in Iran and explained that Jews in Iran cherish their Iranian identity and have a member of parliament.
Douglas Murray then concluded the case for the proposition and argued that Iran is a threat to the world as the Islamic Republic is acting on its agenda for a second Holocaust. Relying primarily on an emotional appeal and repeatedly reiterating the allegation that Iran 's president has denied the Holocaust and intends to wipe Israel off the map, Murray fully advocated the neo-conservative cause and promoted their arguments against Iran.
In his opposition to the proposition, Abbas Edalat gave the final speech of the evening by declaring at the start that the neoconservatives have no moral values and no shame for the consequences of the catastrophic invasion of Iraq and thus are now targeting Iran in what is déjà vu. He drew parallels with the run-up to the US-UK engineered coup of 1953 against the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh, leading the nationalization of oil industry, which the West had demonized as a threat to global security. The only solution to the conflicts in the Middle East , he asserted, is for the West to disengage from its imperial interests in controlling oil, selling arms and dominating the region.
The motion was then defeated by a vote of 125 Ayes and 137 of Noes. Given the generally conservative nature of the Cambridge Union Society, this result amounts to a major victory for the antiwar movement and CASMII. Over twenty Iranian students of Cambridge University were present in the debate, who all supported CASMII and celebrated the result, pledging to continue the campaign to stand united against the demonization of Iran.
An audio file of this debate will be posted on CASMII's website soon.