WASHINGTON – In the latest evidence Iran is seriously planning an unconventional pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S., an Iranian military journal has publicly considered the idea of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack as the key to defeating the world’s lone superpower.
Congress was warned of Iran’s plans last month by Peter Pry, a senior staffer with the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack in a hearing of Sen. John Kyl’s subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security.
In an article titled, “Electronics to Determine Fate of Future Wars,” the journal explains how an EMP attack on America’s electronic infrastructure, caused by the detonation of a nuclear weapon high above the U.S., would bring the country to its knees.
“Once you confuse the enemy communication network you can also disrupt the work of the enemy command- and decision-making center,” the article states. “Even worse today when you disable a country’s military high command through disruption of communications, you will, in effect, disrupt all the affairs of that country. If the world’s industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults then they will disintegrate within a few years. American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot.”
WND reported the Iranian threat last Monday, explaining Tehran is not only covertly developing nuclear weapons, it is already testing ballistic missiles specifically designed to destroy America’s technical infrastructure. The report was published first in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, a premium, online intelligence newsletter by WND’s founder.
Pry pointed out the Iranians have been testing mid-air detonations of their Shahab-3 medium-range missile over the Caspian Sea. The missiles were fired from ships.
“A nuclear missile concealed in the hold of a freighter would give Iran or terrorists the capability to perform an EMP attack against the United States homeland without developing an ICBM and with some prospect of remaining anonymous,” explained Pry. “Iran’s Shahab-3 medium range missile mentioned earlier is a mobile missile and small enough to be transported in the hold of a freighter. We cannot rule out that Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism might provide terrorists with the means to executive an EMP attack against the United States.”
Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission, said yesterday that such an attack – by Iran or some other actor – could cripple the U.S. by knocking out electrical power, computers, circuit boards controlling most automobiles and trucks, banking systems, communications and food and water supplies.
“No one can say just how long systems would be down,” he said. “It could be weeks, months or even years.”
EMP attacks are generated when a nuclear weapon is detonated at altitudes above a few dozen kilometers above the earth’s surface. The explosion, of even a small nuclear warhead, would produce a set of electromagnetic pulses that interact with the earth’s atmosphere and the earth’s magnetic field.
“These electromagnetic pulses propagate from the burst point of the nuclear weapon to the line of sight on the earth’s horizon, potentially covering a vast geographic region in doing so simultaneously, moreover, at the speed of light,” said Wood. “For example, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the central United States would cover, with its primary electromagnetic pulse, the entire continent of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.”
The commission, in its work over a period of several years, found that EMP is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold American society seriously at risk and that might also result in the defeat of U.S. military forces.
“The electromagnetic field pulses produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics and information systems upon which any reasonably advanced society, most specifically including our own, depend vitally,” Wood said. “Their effects on systems and infrastructures dependent on electricity and electronics could be sufficiently ruinous as to qualify as catastrophic to the American nation.”
Wood warned of the potential for unprecedented cascading failures of major electronic and electrical infrastructures.
“In such events, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult and would seriously degrade the overall viability of the American nation and the safety and even the lives of very large numbers of U.S. citizens,” he said.
Strategic EMP attacks on the U.S. have also been considered and discussed recently by China and post-Soviet Union Russia, according to the commission. Yet, the more imminent threat, according to William R. Graham, former chairman of the commission, and Wood, comes from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea and their terrorist allies.
“The current vulnerability of critical U.S. infrastructures can both invite and reward such attacks if not corrected,” Wood said. “I might add that extreme, sustained vulnerability entices such attack. However, correction is feasible and well within the nation’s tactical means and material resources to accomplish. Most critical infrastructure vulnerabilities can be reduced below those levels that potentially invite attempts to create a national catastrophe. By protecting key elements in each critical infrastructure and by preparing to recover essential services, the prospects for a terrorist of rogue state being to impose large-scale, long-term damage on the United States could be minimized.”
The commission estimated that major corrections could be made in the next three to five years that would greatly reduce America’s vulnerability to an EMP attack. There is concern within the commission, however, that the EMP threat is not being taken seriously by the Department of Homeland Security.
Peter Fonash, acting deputy manager for the National Communications System in the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency has “determined that there is minimal EMP effect.”
While the Department of Defense has received briefings from the commission at the highest levels, DHS has not, say commission members.
“We haven’t had equivalent briefings like that with the Department of Homeland Security yet,” said Pry at last month’s congressional hearing.
Since there has never been a large-scale EMP attack anywhere in the world to evaluate, the assessments are based on extrapolation of available data gathered from small-scale nuclear experiments.
Wood said an actual EMP attack on the United States minimally would result in $20 billion in damages, no loss of life and just a great deal of inconvenience. However, on the other end of the scale, it could “literally destroy the American nation and might cause the deaths of 90 percent of its people and set us back a century or more in time as far as our ability to function as a society.”
Wood agreed with Graham, who said he could think of no other reason Iran would be experimenting with high-altitude detonations of missiles besides planning for an EMP attack.
Jerome Corsi, author of “Atomic Iran,” told WorldNetDaily the new findings about Iran’s electromagnetic pulse experiments significantly raise the stakes of the mullah regime’s bid to become a nuclear power.
“Up until now, I believed the nuclear threat to the U.S. from Iran was limited to the ability of terrorists to penetrate the borders or port security to deliver a device to a major city,” he said. “While that threat should continue to be a grave concern for every American, these tests by Iran demonstrate just how devious the fanatical mullahs in Tehran are. We are facing a clever and unscrupulous adversary in Iran that could bring America to its knees.”
The commission said hardening key infrastructure systems and procuring vital backup equipment such as transformers is both feasible and – compared with the threat – relatively inexpensive.