EMP could leave '9 out of 10 Americans dead'
'That is exactly what … Iranians are working toward'
|Publishing Date: 03.05.10 12:56
By F. Michael Maloof
There are renewed alarms being raised about the possibility of an EMP attack – an electromagnetic pulse attack – on the United States because of Iran's work on a multi-stage Space Launch Vehicle. And experts forecast if such an attack was a success, it effectively could push the United States back into an age of agriculture. "Within a year of that attack, nine out of 10 Americans would be dead, because we can't support a population of the present size in urban centers and the like without electricity," said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy. "And that is exactly what I believe the Iranians are working toward." A recent launch of an SLV by Iran has sparked the renewed concern of the attack that could send an electromagnetic pulse across the land that would be powerful enough to wipe out computer controls for systems on which society has come to rely, officials say. As the G2 Bulletin reported last week, Ronald Burgess, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, revealed that Iran successfully launched a multi-stage SLV, the Simorgh. That device ultimately could be equipped with a nuclear bomb, which the U.S. intelligence community assesses Iran is developing. Officials also report Iran has been testing detonation of its nuclear-capable missiles by remote control while still in high-altitude flight. This development makes a potential EMP attack on the U.S. more probable. An EMP is a by-product of a nuclear blast. The pulse from the blast exploded high over land isn't meant to kill people. Consequently, target accuracy isn't a major issue. Instead, the pulse from a nuclear explosion will destroy power sources, communications capabilities and cripple or even destroy most satellites which now serve as the backbone of our modern civilization. Power grids, generators, telephone systems and commercial communications satellites are not hardened against an EMP attack. An EMP attack also would seriously cripple U.S. military capability. Warnings about the potential impact of an EMP attack on the U.S. are nothing new. "What is different now is that some potential sources of EMP threats are difficult to deter – they can be terrorist groups that have no state identity, have only one or a few weapons and are motivated to attack the US. without regard for their own safety," according to the 2004 "Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack." Members of Congress blame the Obama administration for not imposing strict sanctions against Iran over its nuclear development program, but those sanctions may not be forthcoming. Instead, Congress may need to devote more focused attention to hardening critical U.S. infrastructure which now is highly vulnerable to an EMP attack.
Russia: Cruise missiles could hit U.S. carriers
The Russians are developing a cruise missile system said to be capable of knocking out a U.S. aircraft carrier and which could be used by rogue countries or terrorist groups to launch a surprise attack on the United States. The system is called the Club-K Container Missile System. It reportedly would be capable of being launched on short notice from a freight container either loaded on a truck, train or ship. Club K has distributed on YouTube a spiffy animated video to show its capability. Iran and Venezuela already have expressed interest in the missile system. The Russian government, meanwhile, says there is no concern over the missile system getting into the wrong hands since it has strict arms export regulations which would insure that "such a sophisticated weapon can only be sold to a responsible buyer." The company which is to produce the Club-K system, Morinformsistema-Agat, said that allegations of its potential use by terrorists "look very much like hysteria." As proposed, four cruise missiles would be clustered in a 40-foot container that allows for its mobility. In terms of its capability, the U.S. Department of Defense doesn't seem to be too concerned about it. According to the Pentagon's Lt. Col. Almarah K. Belk, USAF, the system "is still in a conceptual phase and thus we don't have any further details to provide." She would not comment further on its potential threat to U.S. systems in the Middle East or elsewhere. However, if this system is exported to unfriendly users, the cruise missile system in a container could be placed on a container ship that could sail near the coasts of the U.S. and launched with no prior notice. The missiles could avoid U.S. defense radars, since their trajectory would be at a relatively low level. By the time the source of the missiles could be determined, the container ship could be gone. This scenario of a missile attack on the U.S. by a terrorist group was the conclusion arrived at by the 1998 Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States. Among other things, the commission concluded that Iran could provide terrorists Scuds to launch from a container ship off the U.S. coast.
Note: The Scud and Club-K missiles could be equipped with a nuclear device that could generate the EMP effect over a major population center, such as on the U.S. East and West coasts. The Club-K video is posted online:
Europe: Trying to checkmate missile attack
The U.S. Navy is considering positioning in overseas ports warships equipped with missile defense systems to guard against a potential ballistic missile attack from Iran. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, commander of Naval Forces Europe, said no decision has been made yet to place permanently in Europe ballistic missile defense-capable cruisers and destroyers. Such naval assets are now in waters close to Japan. Among the issues that would need to be addressed is the supply of such ships, the bureaucratic and diplomatic hurdles that would arise and others. Fitzgerald said BMD warships would need to patrol the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea areas. However, the Black Sea region could pose yet an additional challenge since Russia regards the Black Sea as being in its sphere of influence and does not share the concern about the Iranian missile threat. Perhaps that may be due to Russia's technology cooperation with Iran in missile development.
United States: Layered anti-ballistic missile defense
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is working on a system that will synchronize individual missile defense systems, sensors and operators which will be essential to a layered missile defense approach the agency is developing. The new alphabet buzz phrase is C2BMC – Command and Control, Battle Management, and Communications. The ballistic defense missile, or BDM, system is designed to destroy enemy ballistic missiles by engaging them in all phases of flight. The layered architecture of the BMD system will target the boost, mid-course and terminal phases of ballistic missiles. The components that will comprise the C2BMC will be Aegis BMD ships, ground-based Midcourse Defense, Patriot anti-air missile defense and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD systems.
United States: Israel needs to use more heavy armor
Air strikes used by Israel need to be combined with heavy forces such as tanks and infantry to defeat insurgent groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas in any future combat, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Army. The study done by the Rand Corp., was to analyze Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah. The report, entitled "Military Capabilities for Hybrid War," said that Israel's predominant use of air power against the Hezbollah didn't work and that infantry and armor will be required to fight the Hezbollah which has received extensive training from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC. The major finding of the Rand report revealed that Israel's air combat doctrine was ineffective against Hezbollah and must be combined with major infantry and armor to cut down on the use of civilians as shields, which Hezbollah and Hamas reportedly did. The study was an effort to determine how best to combat a "hybrid opponent," that combines conventional and guerrilla forces as Hezbollah and Hamas do. "The basics of combined arms fire and maneuver are necessary for successful operations against sophisticated hybrid opponents who, like Hezbollah and Hamas, have a modicum of training, organization and advanced weapons, particularly if they are operating 'among the people,'" the report said.
Middle East: Arabs worry about appearing to agree with U.S.
The U.S. Central Command has determined that the United Arab Emirates Air Force is sufficient to counter any Iranian attack. Central Command believes that the UAE has sufficient advanced combat aircraft to strike Iran. "In addition, Gulf aircraft such as the Mirage-2000, F-15 and F-16 are all capable of threatening Iranian targets, and the UAE Air Force is deemed quite capable of holding its own against Iran," a report stemming from a conference sponsored by the U.S. Central Command said. The UAE has been cooperating with the five other Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, members to reinforce regional security should the Iranians attack. In addition to the UAE, other GCC members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The report pointed out that these air defense capabilities are reinforced with missile defenses against any potential Iranian ballistic missile strike. Indeed, the U.S. has been positioning Patriot missile defense systems in these countries. However, there is concern among some of the leaders of the GCC countries over any Iranian retaliation should either the U.S. or Israel strike Iranian nuclear facilities. One of the reasons appears to be their quiet approval that Iran is standing up to the U.S. and Israel. "Gulf governments may not be pleased if their militaries are perceived as adopting the U.S. stance on issues such as military preparations against potential Iranian action," the conference report said. "Similarly, the United States has sometimes had trouble explaining to Gulf elites exactly what military steps would constitute prudent preparation. Considerable progress has been made in securing cooperation on missile and air defense as well as critical infrastructure protection, but more remains to be done."
United States: Expect open challenge to Israel at U.N.
At the United Nations meetings which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is attending in New York beginning today, expect Iran and Egypt openly to mount a challenge against Israel on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel will not be in attendance. but Egypt and Iran are expected to challenge Israel to sign the NPT and admit to possessing nuclear weapons. The Jewish state is neither a signatory to the NPT nor has it ever admitted to having nuclear weapons. The U.S. intelligence community, however, assesses that Israel possesses some 600 nuclear devices, mostly tactical. The confrontation with Israel is seen as an attempt to deflect attention to Iran's nuclear program. Every five years, signatories to the NPT, some 189 countries, come together to review current compliance and press for its continuance. The NPT, however, allows Iran to pursue its nuclear enrichment efforts, despite a mandate from the U.N. Security Council ordering the Islamic Republic to stop it. Iran claims to be in compliance with its obligations under the NPT. Yet, the U.N. Security Council's permanent members which include the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain will be attempting to pass more stringent sanctions against Iran. However, such sanctions are not expected to pass, due principally to opposition from Russia and China due to their trade and investments with Iran. The issue may become even more problematic for stricter sanctions when the presidency of the U.N. Security Council goes to Lebanon for the next six months. The Lebanese government consists of numerous members of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah which the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization.
South Asia: New terrorist group goes international
A regional terrorist group has begun to move into international arenas, including the United States. It is the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, or HuJI, known as the Movement of Islamic Holy War. Until recently, it fought Indians over Kashmir and had developed a considerable movement in Bangladesh and Pakistan. But in Chicago, a suspected HuJI operative, Raja Lahrasib Khan, recently was arrested for allegedly providing material support to al-Qaida earlier this year. Khan is a U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin. He allegedly was planning a terrorist attack on a "big stadium" in the U.S., along with the notorious 313 Brigade commander, Ilyas Kashmiri, who is a former Pakistani army commando. The 313 Brigade is linked to al-Qaida and has directed attacks across India. From this development, it appears that the deadly 313 Brigade similarly may be reaching beyond the Indian Subcontinent and into the West. HuJI was formed in 1984 to fight the Soviets who were then occupying Afghanistan. After the Soviets left, HuJI then exported its brand of jihad into Jammu and Kashmir in India under the patronage of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate, or ISI. HuJI then extended into Bangladesh in the 1990s with the direct help from al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden. In 1998, the HuJI formally endorsed the fatwa issued by the al-Qaida-led International Islamic Front for the Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders which declared U.S. citizens as targets for Islamist attacks. The International Islamic Front is comprised of some 50 terrorist groups. That same year, the U.S. designated the HuJI Bangladesh front as a foreign terrorist organization. Today, it has extended its influence into Central Asia, the Middle East and now into the U.S. and United Kingdom where there is a large Pakistani population. HuJI is rated as second only to Lashkar-e-Taiba, another Pakistani ISI creation whose leader recently threatened another Mumbai attack similar to the one in India in November 2008. Similarly, the 313 Brigade, which operates predominantly out of Pakistan, is closely associated with the International Islamic Front. Its avowed enemies are the U.S. and Israel. The 313 Brigade commander, Ilyas Kashmiri, sees that to succeed in regaining Jammu and Kashmir in India, the Islamists must first defeat the U.S. and its allies in Pakistan, thereby giving primacy to that fight. According to one regional expert, he sees himself as another Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who was responsible for the operational planning of 9/11. As such, he envisions carrying out spectacular terrorist attacks in the West.
Middle East: Islamics getting army
The Islamic Turkish government may be setting up its own military to counter its secular military and general staff who successfully have staged previous coups against any government that appeared to lean more toward open Muslim rule. The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan increasingly has been leaning more toward an open Islamic government, to the consternation of its secular general staff. However, Erdogan has gone so far as rounding up some current and former high-ranking military leaders for alleged efforts to overthrow his government. Now, Erdogan appears to be playing off his intelligence arm and law enforcement agencies against his regular military. He has approved the renewal of a law that permits them to purchase heavy weapons without the permission of the military. "Are they going to replace the military," asked Turkish parliamentarian opposition member Hulusi Guvel. "Are they going to replace the military? I really wonder what they're after." Until the current government under Erdogan, where Turkey has displayed a more open Islamic bent, previous Turkish governments were closely allied with the U.S. Now, that relationship is becoming increasingly strained. In addition, the Erdogan government is opposed to the eastward expansion into the Caucasus and Central Asia of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Turkey, like the U.S., is a member. Turkey's position on NATO expansion echoes concerns raised by Russia, to which the Erdogan government has become increasingly allied. Erdogan also is reaching out more to Iran and supports the Islamic Republic's quest for a nuclear program.
F. Michael Maloof, a frequent G2B contributor, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at email@example.com.