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Debates

Israel Can Live With a Nuclear Iran

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Live Transcript
  • Iran Will Not Use Nuclear Weapons to Destroy Israel

    Clip: Reuven Pedatzur explains why Iran wouldn't use nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. Pedatzur argues that if Iran wanted to wipe Israel "off the face of the map" it would have done so already. Shmuel Bar counters.

  • If Iran Goes Nuclear, Conflicts Will Spin Out of Control

    Clip: The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg argues that Israel would literally only survive another three years if Iran attained nuclear capability.

Debate Details

Over the summer of 2012, despite increased international pressure and economic sanctions, Iran doubled the number of nuclear centrifuges installed in its underground Fordow site, stopping just short of the capacity to produce nuclear fuel. President Obama has rejected Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call to draw a “red line” that would trigger U.S. military action. But what would the costs and benefits of military action be? Can Israel live with a nuclear Iran, or could the time be near for a pre-emptive strike?

The Debaters

For the motion

James Dobbins

Director, RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center

Ambassador James Dobbins is the director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center. Dobbins has held State Department and White... Read More

Reuven Pedatzur

Israeli Military Affairs Analyst, Ha’aretz

Reuven Pedatzur is a senior military affairs analyst with Ha'aretz newspaper and Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Tel Aviv University. He currently... Read More

Against the motion

Shmuel Bar

Director of Studies, Israel’s Institute of Policy and Strategy & Fmr. Israeli Intelligence Officer

Shmuel Bar is the Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, Israel. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the International... Read More

Jeffrey Goldberg

National Correspondent, The Atlantic

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He is a recipient of the National Magazine Award... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Israel does not have the military capacity to prevent the bomb, only to delay it.
  • If Iran was ever on the fence, an attack would almost certainly push them in the direction of achieving nuclear weapons capability.
  • An Israeli attack will rally the Iranian public behind what is currently an unpopular regime, garner Iran international sympathy, and incite violence against Americans across the region.
  • Deterrence works—the U.S. successfully deterred the Soviet Union for more than 40 years.
  • Iran's leaders are not irrational and know that a nuclear attack on Israel would provoke a devastating response from Israel and the U.S.
  • A war to prevent an Iranian bomb would be a disaster for Israel and for America, which is still reeling from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Against The Motion
  • A nuclear Iran would provoke an arms race in the Middle East.
  • A nuclear weapon would increase Iran's influence in the Middle East and embolden allies like Hezbollah and Syria.
  • Iran would use the threat of a nuclear attack whenever it's threatened, triggering a crisis that could easily spiral out of control.
  • Iran's leadership is sincerely anti-Semitic and on numerous occasions has called for the destruction of Israel, and history has shown that we discount the ideas of extremists at our own peril.

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The Research

The Research

Nuclear Iran: A Glossary of Terms

Simon Henderson and Ollie Heinonen
August 1, 2012

An interactive online glossary of terms used in the discussion about Iran, prepared by proliferation expert Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Time to Attack Iran

Matthew Kroenig
February 1, 2012

Why a strike is the least bad option.

We Can Live With a Nuclear Iran

Paul Pillar
April 1, 2012

Fears of a bomb in Tehran’s hands are overhyped, and a war to prevent it would be a disaster.

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