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Should Iran Get a Nuclear Weapon?

July 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn to Iran.

European Union and Iranian representatives will meet in two weeks to explore restarting the stalled nuclear talks. This comes as some here in the U.S. argue that Iran should be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

Last week, ballistic missiles shot through the skies above the deserts of Iran. Though part of a planned military exercise, Iranian officials said the launch came with a message to the United States and Israel: Do not attack our nuclear facilities.

Then came reports that the U.S. had ramped up its naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Both developments followed another set of failed nuclear talks among Iran and officials from the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany.

Iranian officials have long insisted their nuclear work is only for peaceful purposes. But the U.S. and Israel, which have their own extensive arsenal of nuclear weapons, have led efforts against a nuclear-armed Iran.

A book just out written by two journalists claims that Israel has gone so far as to launch cyber-attacks and to kill Iranian scientists in an effort to slow down any nuclear advancements. In March, President Obama reinforced his pledge to stop Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a speech to the American-Israel Political Action Committee.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his stance when meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israeli prime minister (through translator): We agreed that nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians would create a grave danger, not only a grave danger to Israel, but also a grave danger to the entire region and the whole world.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But a new essay in “Foreign Affairs” magazine titled “Why Iran Should Get The Bomb” sees a much different scenario playing out.

Veteran scholar Kenneth Waltz writes: “Once Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, deterrence will apply, even if the Iranian arsenal is relatively small. The current crisis will finally dissipate, leading to a Middle East that is more stable than it is today.”

Meanwhile, tough international economic sanctions, including an oil embargo by the European Union this month, have led to rising inflation for Iran.