WASHINGTON, DC – One of the greatest challenges that US President Barack Obama will face in his second term is Iran’s pursuit of advanced nuclear technologies. While a nuclear Iran would damage America’s strategic position in the Middle East, action aimed at forestalling Iran’s nuclear progress also carries serious strategic and economic consequences.
Armed with nuclear weapons, Iran would be better able to project influence, intimidate its neighbors, and protect itself. As a result, the United States’ allies in the region would need new security guarantees. But an increased American presence could provoke radical groups, while requiring defense resources that are needed to support US interests in East and Southeast Asia.
Some of Obama’s conservative critics believe that he will allow Iran to develop an advanced nuclear program, provided that it stops short of actually building a bomb. But no American president would want their legacy to include allowing so unfriendly a regime to acquire such a dangerous weapon – even if doing so meant avoiding greater strategic costs.
Indeed, Obama has repeatedly avowed that he will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear-weapons capability, rather than allow the country to develop its nuclear program and then rely on deterrence, as has been done with other nuclear powers. But such tough rhetoric might create a dilemma for Obama.