Viewers could be forgiven for wondering if last Monday night’s presidential debate was actually about foreign affairs. Each candidate turned to his domestic policy talking points when questioned about a variety of international topics, focusing in detail on the need for a “strong economy here at home.”
While neither President Obama nor Governor Romney made the connection explicitly, a nuclear Iran could negatively impact their plans to build that strong economy. As BPC’s Iran Initiative explains in its recent report, The Price of Inaction, a nuclear-capable Iran would heighten expectations of potential future disruptions in global energy markets. Our analysis indicates that such expectations could increase the price of oil 10 to 25 percent. Not only would this jump affect gasoline prices, it would likely have negative effects on unemployment, GDP growth and inflation.
Both candidates declared a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable. But the two had diverging assessments of what constitutes the redline Tehran must not cross. Obama reiterated his administration’s policy to prevent Iran from obtaining an actual weapon, where Tehran assembles all the necessary pieces of an operational nuclear device. Romney drew the line at a nuclear-capable Iran – the point at which it achieves all these components without constructing or testing an actual weapon.
Because nuclear capability is easier to verify – and because it gives Tehran the benefit of a nuclear deterrent without the political fallout of violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – BPC’s Iran reports and op-eds have urged policymakers to draw the line at nuclear capability.
Both men highlighted the security threats that a nuclear Iran poses to the United States and its allies. Obama warned of a destabilizing proliferation cascade, as Saudi Arabia and potentially others would seek their own nuclear deterrent in response, while Romney stated “the greatest national security threat is a nuclear Iran.” These claims echo the findings of BPC reports.