Believe it or not, there are some potential benefits to the United States should Iran build a bomb. (I’m speaking for myself here, and in no way for the Air Force.) Five possibilities come to mind.
First, Iran’s development of nuclear weapons would give the United States an opportunity to finally defeat violent Sunni-Arab terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Here’s why: a nuclear Iran is primarily a threat to its neighbors, not the United States. Thus Washington could offer regional security — primarily, a Middle East nuclear umbrella — in exchange for economic, political and social reforms in the autocratic Arab regimes responsible for breeding the discontent that led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Until now, the Middle East autocracies have refused to change their ways because they were protected by the wealth of their petroleum reserves. A nuclear Iran alters the regional dynamic significantly, and provides some leverage for us to demand reforms.
Second, becoming the primary provider of regional security in a nuclear Middle East would give the United States a way to break the OPEC cartel. Forcing an end to the sorts of monopolistic practices that are illegal in the United States would be the price of that nuclear shield, bringing oil prices down significantly and saving billions of dollars a year at the pump. Or, at a minimum, President Obama could trade security for increased production and a lowering of global petroleum prices.