U.S officials say an agreement to resume international talks on Iran's nuclear program is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and head-off what might then become a regional arms race.
The agreement to restart talks over Iran's nuclear program includes demands by permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany for “concrete and practical steps” to restore international trust in Tehran's claims that its atomic ambitions are purely peaceful.
That means better access for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA says there are “strong indicators” that Iran is trying to develop an atomic bomb.
President Obama says the international community will not allow that to happen.
“My policy is not containment. My policy is to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon, because if they get a nuclear weapon that could trigger an arms race in the region, it would undermine our nonproliferation goals, it could potentially fall into the hands of terrorists,” Obama said.
The U.S. is working with European and Asian allies to tighten sanctions against Iranian oil exports because they believe President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using those profits to fund his nuclear program.
Johns Hopkins University professor Ruth Wedgwood says the U.S. is moving to pre-empt a regional nuclear arms race.
“Unpredictable as Ahmadinejad is, and thuggish as he is and inevitable as it would be that Iraq would then want a bomb as well, but Turkey would want one and Egypt would want one and Saudi would want one. So you would have a poly-player game in the Middle East. And why not Syria?,” Wedgewood said.
Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence and refuses to rule out military action to prevent Tehran from developing an atomic weapon.
President Obama says Israel has to make its own decisions about security, but those decisions affect everyone involved.
"This is not just an issue of Israeli interest, this is an issue of U.S. interest. It's also not just an issue of consequences for Israel if action is taken prematurely, there are consequences for the United States as well," Obama said.
President Obama says there is still time to resolve the nuclear stand off peacefully. But Professor Wedgwood says Iran's offer to resume talks is clearly influenced by increasing talk of war.
“Ahmadinejad, I suppose, can also read the gathering mood of provoked hostility from the U.S. He has to worry where our tipping point is. I think even we don't know that frankly. American politics is often quite volatile,” Wedgewood said.
President Obama says American politicians who are "beating the drums of war" have a responsibility to explain the costs and benefits of military action.