Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Take Center Stage

Iran's nuclear ambitions have become a topic of debate in the presidential race. Most recently, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan argued in their debate last week how long it would be before Iran possessed the capability to make an actual weapon.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

The U.S. standoff with Iran over its nuclear program is still in a holding pattern, a seemingly endless cycle of sanctions and inspections and political rhetoric. The issue most recently made its way into the U.S. presidential election. Last week, during the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan went head-to-head on Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability. And there, that case speaks for itself.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Can you tell the American people what's worse...

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: By the way, they're no, no, they are not four years closer to a nuclear weapon.

RADDATZ: ...another war in the Middle East or...

BIDEN: They're closer to being able to get enough fissile material to put in a weapon if they had a weapon.

MARTIN: But a half a century before Iran pursued a nuclear program, the biggest threat was the Soviet Union and following its breakup, Russia. For decades, the U.S. and Russia have been trying to cleanup the massive nuclear mess left in the wake of the Cold War, getting rid of a staggering number of nuclear weapons and dangerous nuclear material in Russia and elsewhere through something called the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

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