This is a point Geoffrey Kemp and I dwell on extensively in our forthcoming book War with Iran: Political, Military, and Economic Consequences. Robb, Ross and Makovsky are right to point out that there are substantial costs associated with a nuclear-armed Iran. Increasing tension in the region could certainly add to the security premium on Gulf oil. Fears of supply disruption increase demand for futures contracts as consumers attempt to ensure they won’t run out of oil. Further, the United States and its regional allies would have to deter and balance a more powerful Iran. This would have costs of its own: troops deployed in the region are financially and politically expensive; weapons given to Gulf allies would raise the stakes of a conflict (and of instability); resources sent to the Middle East cannot be used elsewhere, such as for America’s strategic shift to East Asia.
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The high cost of war with Iran has been frequently discussed in these spaces. But what of the price of living with an Iranian bomb? In a recent Wall Street Journal oped, former senator Charles Robb, former Obama Middle East advisor Dennis Ross and Bipartisan Policy Center foreign policy chief Michael Makovsky urge those leading U.S efforts to manage Iran’s nuclear ambitions to “not dwell exclusively on the potential short-term impacts of economic pressure or military action.” The trio claims that “over the medium and long term, the economic costs of a nuclear Iran may be no less real and far more enduring.”
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