EMP: America's Achilles Heel

News Image By Tom Olago April 14, 2016
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Imagine a scenario where the U.S is suddenly plunged back into the Stone Age. Communications, transportation, banking, finance, food and water systems are all damaged or heavily disrupted and unable to function or sustain the American population and its modern way of life.

All this - with love from Tehran. There are indications that Iran is working on fomenting an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack against the United States that, if successful, could cripple the U.S and make this 'death to America' scenario a reality. 

According to statements by former CIA Director James Woolsey to The Blaze TV's For the Record, "Once Iran has a nuclear weapon, they are ready to launch an EMP attack against us... I think they have conducted launches of satellites of the type... and in the direction you would want for an EMP attack."

In addition to those tests, Woolsey says the Iranian military has laid the groundwork for a religious justification for an EMP strike. In 2010, a military textbook called "Passive Defense" was published, which included a section that outlined how an EMP strike would be compliant with Islamic law.

The effects of an EMP attack on the U.S are nothing to sneeze at. "The deaths from electromagnetic pulse are all indirect," said Woolsey. "They come from destroying the electricity grid, and thereby not being able to operate the other 17 infrastructures in the United States -- food, water, finance...Everything else operates off electricity. And by not being able to operate those, you will have lots of people die of thirst, die of starvations, die of social disruption."

The Congressional EMP Commission spent nearly a decade studying the issue and concluded that as many as 90 percent of all Americans could die in the first year after an EMP strike.

So exactly how could Iran pull off such a feat? In August of 2015, James Woolsey and Peter Pry deliberated on the possibilities in an article for the Washington Times.  They stated that Iran may obtain a nuclear weapon, relatively easily, by cheating in the use of the nuclear infrastructure permitted them under the U.S sanctioned nuclear agreement.

Woolsey and Pry further argued that U.S. intelligence cannot meet the impossibly high standard of assuring that Iran cannot acquire a single nuclear weapon and, given the regime's existing nuclear infrastructure, cannot with absolute certainty guarantee that Iran does not already have one.

It doesn't help matters for the U.S that the EMP strategy is firmly supported and encouraged by Iran. The Washington Post report also stated that on July 21, Rep. Trent Franks quoted from an Iranian military textbook, recently translated by the Defense Intelligence Agency's National Intelligence University. 

Rep. Franks was speaking at the annual meeting of the Electric Infrastructure Security Summit in Washington.

The textbook, ironically titled "Passive Defense" (2010), describes nuclear EMP effects in detail. It advocates, in more than 20 passages, how to defeat an adversary, decisively, via an EMP attack. The official Iranian military textbook advocates this revolutionary way of warfare. It combines coordinated attacks by nuclear and non-nuclear EMP weapons, as well as physical and cyber-attacks against electric grids to black out and collapse entire nations.

Iranian military doctrine makes no distinction between nuclear EMP weapons, non-nuclear radio-frequency weapons, and cyber-operations -- it regards nuclear EMP attack as the ultimate cyber-weapon. EMP is most effective at blacking-out critical infrastructures while it also does not directly damage the environment or harm human life, according to Iran's "Passive Defense".

Because EMP destroys electronics directly, but people indirectly, it is regarded by some as Shariah-compliant use of a nuclear weapon. "Passive Defense" and other Iranian military writings are well aware that nuclear EMP attack is the most efficient way of killing people, through secondary effects, over the long run.

Those who think that Iran couldnt take on the mighty U.S military in any way and win should probably be ready to accept second thoughts. Woolsey and Pry posit the chilling conclusion that because a nuclear EMP attack can be conducted anonymously and by surprise, deterrence may not work.

Deterrence depends upon knowing who may attack and being able to strike preemptively. Unlike a nuclear weapon used to blast a city, high-altitude EMP leaves no collectible bomb debris for forensic analysis to identify the aggressor.

In an article published by in August of 2015, Michael Maloof quoted Pry, who in an interview with claimed that the Obama administration may already know that Iran has a nuclear EMP capability that could "threaten America's existence."

"Does this explain why Obama is virtually abandoning the Middle East to Iran, abandoning longstanding U.S. allies, is appeasing Iran and even apparently trying to forge a new strategic relationship that replaces Israel with Iran as the primary U.S. partner in the Middle East?" Pry asked.

Woolsey and Pry refer to a 1998 Iranian article on EMP which stated, in part, "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."

The prospect of just such a gloomy and chilling outcome has helped prompt some preparatory defense reaction from the U.S military although there seems to be limited optimism on how much it could help.

In May of 2015, Sean Piccoli for Newsmax wrote that the potential of a devastating attack on the US power grid by nuclear states such as North Korea or Iran has prompted the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to return to its former location inside Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

This information was reportedly provided by two former Reagan-era government officials in The Wall Street Journal, who warned that the Obama administration has failed to act on urgent recommendations to protect the country's civilian electronic infrastructure from catastrophe.

Little wonder that the current contenders for the Presidency of the U.S after Obama have picked up on and harped on the issue during the campaign debates. A Washington Post article by Philip Bump mid-January highlighted Republican warnings of EMP attacks.

Rick Santorum cautioned in a warm-up debate of the possibility of an EMP being used as a weapon, a "devastating explosion" that would "fry out" anything with a circuit board. "Everything is gone," he said. "Cars stop. Planes fall out of the sky." If Iran got a nuclear bomb, he warned, they could explode one in the atmosphere over the United States and break every phone, car, computer, and anything else electronic underneath.

During the main debate, Ben Carson raised the same issue. "We have enemies who are obtaining nuclear weapons that they can explode in our atmosphere and destroy our electric grid," he said, adding, "Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue at that point?"

Other analysts disagree about the potential of the EMP threat to the U.S. Bump in his article, quoted Dr. Yousaf Butt, a senior research fellow at National Defense University who has written about the threat posed by EMPs. Although Dr. Butt admits that the vulnerability to EMP exists, he argues that the rogue nations don't have nuclear capabilities of that kind or even the means of delivering them. 

If such a strike were to happen, whoever launched it would be relying on 'an awful lot of luck' that everything would go right. And it wouldn't take the U.S long to figure out who did it, according to Dr. Butt.

He agrees with Santorum, though, that we should indeed harden our infrastructural systems - not because of a nuclear threat, but because of the Sun. 

A coronal mass ejection from the Sun could send a magnetic field toward Earth that could cause an 'E3-like effect' on the transformers that make up our electrical grid. Butt repeatedly noted that whereas the threat of a nuclear EMP was small, the threat of a solar one was real. 

"Let's not throw out the solar-geomagnetic baby with the EMP bathwater," he said. Preparing our infrastructure to handle an EMP from the sun would help us prevent damage during a hostile strike, as well.

It would seem that although the jury may still out on how great the risk may be of an EMP attack on the U.S by a rival or rogue nation, one thing is clear: the aftermath of a successful EMP attack is something that the U.S cannot afford. 

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