The nuclear deal with Iran won’t make the world a safer place

Monday 2 November 2015, 6.45pm | VIDEO ONLINE NOW

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What’s not to like? The deal reached between Iran and six world powers in July is a major diplomatic breakthrough. In exchange for Tehran halting its nuclear weapons programme, the West will lift the sanctions that have been crippling Iran’s economy for the last decade. The deal was hailed by President Obama as ‘a historic understanding’ and met with cheers of approval from around the world. Of course, the agreement doesn’t guarantee that Iran will never get the bomb some time in the future. But its supporters argue that in a complex world it’s the best option going. There will be no pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities for at least 10 years. The freeing up of over £100 billion of frozen assets will increase Iran’s stability, and the improved communication and trade between Iran and other countries will strengthen the hand of those Iranians who want their nation to be part of the modern world. The deal is a major step towards making the world a safer place.

That’s the line of those who support the deal. But to others, including Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, it’s not so much a historic understanding as a terrifying historic mistake. The Iranians, they say, have a track record of wily negotiating. Once the agreement’s restrictions expire in around 2025, what is there to stop the mullahs cranking up their nuclear programme and producing the bomb? In the meantime, relaxing sanctions will allow the Tehran to channel ever more funds to murderous regimes such as Assad’s Syria, and the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah. Furthermore, by cosying up to the Shiite Iranians, the West risks alienating its Sunni allies in the Middle East and leaving Israel feeling even more dangerously exposed.

Will the deal avert war and give moderate Iranians the time they need to bring their country in from the cold? Or will it do no more than put a hold on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and allow the mullahs to ramp up their dangerous meddling in the region?  Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s most formidable and celebrated lawyers, and Emily Landau, one of Israel’s top nuclear proliferation experts, went head to head with senior politicians Norman Lamont and Jack Straw, both impassioned advocates of rapprochement with Iran.

Speakers for the motion

Alan DershowitzProfessor Alan Dershowitz

American lawyer and author. He is a leading commentator on the Arab–Israeli conflict and his books include the bestseller The Case for Israel and most recently The Case against the Iran Deal: How can we now stop Iran from getting nukes? Much of his legal career has focused on criminal law, with high-profile clients such as Patty Hearst, Leona Helmsley, Mike Tyson, Michael Milken, and O.J. Simpson. He has also been an adviser to Julian Assange’s legal team.


Emily LandauDr Emily Landau

Head of the Arms Control and Regional Security programme at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Tel Aviv University. She has written and lectured extensively on the proliferation challenges posed by Iran, and been a vocal critic of what she calls the ‘severely flawed bargaining techniques’ of the nuclear deal with Iran.


Speakers against the motion

Lord LamontLord Lamont of Lerwick

Norman Lamont is a Conservative politician who was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1990 to 1993. He is Chairman of the British-Iranian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the advisory board of the Iran Heritage Foundation.


Jack StrawJack Straw

Foreign Secretary under Tony Blair from 2001 to 2006. He led a parliamentary delegation to Tehran in 2014. Straw has argued that Iran should never have been included in President Bush’s ‘axis of evil’, and has called for a normalisation of relations between the UK and Iran.



Nik GowingNik Gowing

BBC World News presenter.




Speakers are subject to change.