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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is Iran seeking the capacity to destroy western civilization?

Caroline Glick's column in today's JPost deals mostly with the ballistic missile threat to Israel from Syria, Iran and Hezbullah. I recommend that you read the whole thing. I could have made at least two more posts out of it (on on Hezbullah's capacity and one on Iron Dome), but I'd like to focus a different item that she discusses, because it doesn't only threaten Israel. It threatens civilization as we know it.
AFTER YEARS OF denial, today even US intelligence agencies acknowledge that Iran's ballistic missile program is part and parcel of its nuclear program. While most Israeli observers have devoted their energies to assessing the destructive capacity of a direct nuclear attack against the tiny country, and to the various delivery mechanisms - from the Shihab-3 missiles to Syrian Scuds to Hizbullah or Hamas death squads - that Iran could field against it in the event of a nuclear attack, the fact of the matter is that Iran has an indirect option for using nuclear weapons to attack Israel that would likely be more destructive than a direct nuclear attack. And it is an option that Iran can wield not only against Israel, but against every country in the world.

An electromagnetic pulse or EMP attack is an indirect nuclear attack. It has the capacity to destroy a target country's electricity grids and so revert a post-industrial, technology-based country such as Israel or the US to a pre-industrial condition [There is video below that explains this. It's apparently not as far-fetched as it sounds. CiJ]. If an aggressor launches a nuclear device of whatever size and detonates it above the atmosphere and in the line of site of its target country, the x-rays and gamma rays emitted by the blast will cause an electromagnetic pulse, or wave a million times stronger than the strongest radio wave. That wave, which comes in three successive stages, will destroy a country's electrical grids and through them, its ability to function.

In 2000, concern about the EMP threat in the US caused Congress to mandate the formation of a commission comprised of the leading US experts on the issue to study it. The EMP Threat Commission's 2004 report warned that the effect an EMP attack would have on the US's national infrastructures "could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the nation."

As Frank Gaffney, President of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, explained in his 2006 book War Footing, by destroying a country's electrical power systems, an EMP will destroy its economy since it will wipe out its banking system. All vehicles that operate with electronic systems - that is all vehicles made since the mid-1970s - would be rendered inoperable. Telecommunications would end. A country's ability to store food through refrigeration would end. Its ability to transport water and pump gasoline would also end.

Since almost no one would be killed in the immediate aftermath of an EMP attack, a threat of retaliation against the aggressor country would lack credibility because such an option would be politically unpalatable. But while an EMP attack would not kill many people directly, it would kill millions of people indirectly. As Gaffney notes, by wiping out a country's ability to support itself, an EMP attack would cause mass starvation and disease.

The threat of an EMP attack was not taken seriously by US military planners during the Cold War because they were concerned with the primary Soviet threat to annihilate the US and its allies by launching several thousand nuclear warheads against them. But as nuclear and missile technology has proliferated in the post-Cold War period, and more technologically primitive countries get their hands on missiles and limited nuclear capabilities, the threat of an EMP attack has become far more acute.

In Iran's case, the mullahs have signaled clearly through both word and deed that they find the option of attacking their enemies with an EMP attack attractive. An article published in Iran's security journal Nashriyeh-e Siasi Nezami in 1999 identified an EMP attack as a way to defeat the US as a military power and as a state. Then too, as William Graham, who headed the US's EMP commission explained in an interview with World Net Daily last year, Iran is openly building the capacity to carry out such an attack. Last year, Iran described a ship-launched test of its Shihab-3 missile in the Caspian Sea as "successful" in spite of the fact that like an EMP, the missile detonated in mid-launch. [This test is described further below. CiJ].

More disturbingly, Iran's successful satellite launch earlier this month makes clear that the mullahs now have the technological capacity to effectively wipe out Western civilization. Three to five nuclear bombs of any size, launched into space on satellites and detonated above the US, Europe and Asia would send Western civilization back to the 19th century. Last week Iran announced it is building seven more satellites. Yet rather than recognize that once its nuclear arsenal is online Iran will represents a threat to all nations, the West ignored the significance of the satellite launch.

The US's EMP commission's report explained that to defend against such an attack, it is necessary to build redundant electrical systems and have difficult-to-build replacement parts like turbines on hand to replace ones destroyed by such an attack. Since the report was published, the US has made some modest progress in that direction.
Caroline goes on to point out that Israel has not made any progress on the issue, but that's not what I want to discuss. I want to show you that the EMP threat is credible and that Iran is apparently pursuing it. And it won't just threaten Big Satan and Little Satan. Islam is stuck in the 8th century. It can catch up - or it can pull the rest of the world back to its level.

In a Washington Times article in 2006, Frank Gaffney described Iran's interest in pursuing an EMP threat.
In fact, there is reason to believe the Iranian regime is working toward a capability that could destroy America as we know it. A blue-ribbon commission's report to the Congress last year (http://empcreport.ida.org/) found a single nuclear weapon detonated in space high above the United States could unleash an immensely powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP). An EMP wave a million times stronger than the most powerful radio transmitter would damage or destroy the electrical grid and unshielded electronic devices upon which our society utterly depends. The effect (visualized in a short video available at www.WarFooting.com [this link no longer works, but I have video below. CiJ) could be "catastrophic" -- possibly reducing America from a 21st century superpower to a pre-industrial society in the blink of an eye.

Iranian missile tests -- including firing a Scud missile off a ship and flying the new Shahab 3 missile in a profile apparently designed to deliver a weapon into space -- suggest the mullahs seek an EMP capability. The sort of death and destruction such an attack might precipitate seem consistent with the apocalyptic vision of Shi'ite extremists, who believe such conditions the prerequisite for a messianic age ushered in by the arrival of the "12th imam."
Here are a short video and a slightly longer one that explain the EMP threat. Let's go to the videotape.

Here's the second video. Note that this video was made in 2007, so the maker was obviously wrong about there being a nuclear war that year. I'm not an expert on the science, but it certainly sounds plausible to me. Let's go to the videotape.

If you think it far-fetched to say that Iran is after such a bomb, please consider this post from Pastorius.
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and in remarks to a private conference on missile defense over the weekend hosted by the Claremont Institute, Dr. William Graham warned that the U.S. intelligence community “doesn’t have a story” to explain the recent Iranian tests.

One group of tests that troubled Graham, the former White House science adviser under President Ronald Reagan, were successful efforts to launch a Scud missile from a platform in the Caspian Sea.

“They’ve got [test] ranges in Iran which are more than long enough to handle Scud launches and even Shahab-3 launches,” Dr. Graham said. “Why would they be launching from the surface of the Caspian Sea? They obviously have not explained that to us.”

Another troubling group of tests involved Shahab-3 launches where the Iranians "detonated the warhead near apogee, not over the target area where the thing would eventually land, but at altitude,” Graham said. “Why would they do that?”

Graham chairs the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, a blue-ribbon panel established by Congress in 2001.

The commission examined the Iranian tests “and without too much effort connected the dots,” even though the U.S. intelligence community previously had failed to do so, Graham said.

“The only plausible explanation we can find is that the Iranians are figuring out how to launch a missile from a ship and get it up to altitude and then detonate it,” he said. “And that’s exactly what you would do if you had a nuclear weapon on a Scud or a Shahab-3 or other missile, and you wanted to explode it over the United States.”
Does Iran want to destroy western civilization? Probably. Is it seeking the means to do so? Judge for yourself. An awful lot of credible people apparently think so.

This is a far greater crisis than 'global warming.' And unfortunately, it's not one that the Hopenchange administration in Washington is going to be eager to face.


At 8:30 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

EMP is a form of indirect nuclear attack and it can destroy a country just as effectively as a direct attack can. Neither the West nor Israel is prepared for the scenario.

Would one like to live with a nuclear Iran that could with the push of a button, simply shock Israel's brain dead? That prospect is exactly why Israel has a red line with Iran going nuclear - and the threat Iran poses is as has been observed many times before, is not confined to the Jews alone.

At 10:25 PM, Blogger MKSheppard said...

EMP is an overrated and overblown threat. Let the Iranians waste their bombs on EMP. At worst, they'll knock out a few television sets.

The only threat that a high-altitude initation for EMP purposes will pose is induced line surge along television aerials, coaxial cables, and power lines.

At the distance of the initation (several hundred miles above earth); the inverse square law means that by the time the EMP pulse reaches ground level, it will be at such a low level that it will be defeated by the shielding that's in just about every consumer product to prevent interference with other consumer products.

The real threat will come from induced line surge -- even if by the time the energy level of an EMP pulse is a mere 0.1 volts per meter; a 5 kilometer long power line would pick up an induced energy surge of 500 volts.

All you need to stop that induced EMP line surge is to place a surge protector on anything connected to that line or antenna.

This is precisely what happened during the notorious Starfish Prime test in the sixties; much of the equipment "destroyed" by that experimental high altitude initation was actually factory equipment which had it's power line protection equipment like fuses, circuit breakers, etc tripped by the EMP surge. All they had to do was reset the breakers, or replace the fuses, and the equipment was back in operation again.

At 10:33 PM, Blogger MKSheppard said...

That said, EMP can be a threat.

It's just that Hollywood has hyped up the threat beyond proportion.

Did you know that at the distance that "hollywood" would occur -- e.g. your TVs, Computers, phones, etc go dead and don't work again ever, you'll be so close to ground zero, that you'll have other things to worry about; like your house being set on fire by the thermal pulse, and then blown away a few seconds later as the blast wave reaches you.

At 12:16 AM, Blogger toddsts said...

Also, most military (US) field equipment is hardened against EMP. Leaving a military still quite capable of wiping Iran, or whoever off the face of the planet.

At 2:22 AM, Blogger jerrybault said...

While EMP will take out some electronic equipment the repairs will be straight forward and easily implemented. Vehicles that are not running at the time of the Attack will still work. the the vehicles that are damaged will be able to be repairs by replacing the computers. The cars that still have metal bodies will be relatively unaffected since the metal will act as a shield for much of the EMP.
We will not be knocked back to the 19th century.
I am a electrical engineer with 30 years design experience, including radiation and EMP hardening, so I have some experience in these matters

At 2:23 AM, Blogger jerrybault said...

While EMP will take out some electronic equipment, the repairs will be straight forward and easily implemented. Vehicles that are not running at the time of the Attack will still work. the the vehicles that are damaged will be able to be repairs by replacing the computers. The cars that still have metal bodies will be relatively unaffected since the metal will act as a shield for much of the EMP.
We will not be knocked back to the 19th century.
I am a electrical engineer with 30 years design experience, including radiation and EMP hardening

At 3:55 AM, Blogger gh said...

EMP is in no way overblown if you look at the scientific literature on it (there are some declassified Los Alamos lab reports floating around the net).

However, an effective EMP attack requires a hydrogen bomb. This is evident even from what is posted on wikipedia.

So an EMP attack from Iran is not a major threat.

At 6:24 AM, Blogger MKSheppard said...

Lets do some math.

The following proportions are how much energy in a nuclear device's total yield is converted into wideband electromagnetic noise (EMP/SREE/etc):

Ground Burst Percentage: 3x10^-10
Air Burst Percentage: 3x10^-5

Now, for the following yields, the energy content is as follows:

20 kiloton device (Nagasaki Bomb)
TOTAL ENERGY: 8.78 x 10^13 Joules
EMP IF GROUNDBURST: 2.63 x 10^4 Joules
EMP IF AIRBURST: 2.63 x 10^9 Joules

1 Megaton Device:
TOTAL ENERGY: 4.184 x 10^15 Joules
EMP IF GROUNDBURST: 1.26 x 10^6 Joules
EMP IF AIRBURST: 1.26 x 10^11 Joules

2 Megaton Device:
TOTAL ENERGY: 8.37 x 10^15 Joules
EMP IF GROUNDBURST: 2.51 x 10^6 Joules
EMP IF AIRBURST: 2.51 x 10^11 Joules

50 Megaton Device:
TOTAL ENERGY: 2.1 x 10^17 Joules
EMP IF GROUNDBURST: 6.30 x 10^7 Joules
EMP IF AIRBURST: 6.30 x 10^12 Joules

100 Megaton Device:
TOTAL ENERGY: 4.184 x 10^17 Joules
EMP IF GROUNDBURST: 1.26 x 10^8 Joules
EMP IF AIRBURST: 1.26 x 10^13 Joules

According to the inverse square law; if you were 250 miles from a high altitude 2 megaton initation -- which by the way is the usual description of EMP; a megaton-class device initated 250 miles above Kansas blanketing the entire Continental United States with EMP -- the amount of energy you would receive would be 320,000 Joules per square mile.

By way of comparison, the average lightning bolt has an energy level of 1.5x10^9 Joules; and guess what?

There are even Personal Lightning Detectors which operate on the principle of detecting the electromagnetic pulse generated by a lightning strike; but they can be set off by electronic equipment, such as fluoroscent lights, high power appliances, or even car engines (the spark plugs on them actually).

But anyway. With the inverse square law; the energy level of that average lightning bolt at seven miles is 2.4 million joules per square miles. I don't see all electronic and electrical devices being fried each time a lightning bolt strikes that area.

BTW, if you up the nuclear device you're initating over Kansas to TSAR BOMBA-class (50 megatons), the amount of energy received on the ground rises to about 8 million joules per square mile; or about as dangerous as an average lightning bolt some 3.8 miles away from you.

So that's why classical "high altitude" EMP (HEMP) is a non-starter.

If however, you're ten miles from that 2 megaton device when it goes up, the energy level is about 200~ million joules per square meter. But then again, if you're ten miles from that device, you'll have other things to worry about, like the huge smoking hole several miles away; the thermal pulse setting things on fire or at least smoldering, and the blast wave arriving shortly.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger The Bear said...

104 miles. That's the optimum altitude for a nuclear EMP to destroy everything within its visible horizon (Assuming you are using (I think the military modeled a 200kt device which is 10 times the power of the Nagasaki Bomb - the altitude and damage radius are smaller for smaller devices).

Yes, the military's ground, sea, and most of our air equipment are shielded, but many of its satellites, our drone fleet, and every Windows laptop or desktop in use by anyone in the service will be toast (think what happens when you accidentally zap a chip with static electricity and multiply by 1000).

They set off 3 or 4 bombs at the corners of our country and think about losing every PC and about not only the incineration of our electric grid (one big antenna) but all the building fires that will occur when that much energy is pulsed into wiring in homes and buildings.

Every generation station will be knocked off line including the nuclear reactors. Every power switch will be fried. Every hospital, every infrastructure control system from stop lights to flood controls will be toast.

Imagine this happens in January.

Think about what Kentucky just went thru and expand that every where. There's no one to come and rescue you, your family, your children, your freinds. No FEMA. Every car is dead (running or not!). No food, no clean water, no heat (most heating is from furnaces that are electrically started and have fans).

If we even get a hint that they are planning this we should wipe them off the map of the earth. Deterrence only matters when people think you'll use your weapons against them if you are threatened and we need to make an example out of Iran.


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