Rapidly advancing ballistic missile and nuclear programs give Iran the potential to develop the "holy grail" of offensive tactics that can be employed against the United States: the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. In an EMP attack, a nuclear warhead is detonated at high altitude over America; the resulting blast will create an EMP, a shockwave that can "cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure."

This section details Iran's development of its EMP capabilities -- both its development of EMPs specifically and its advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Iran and EMPs
Official Consensus on EMP Threat Ignored by New York Times
Ross Howarth
December 22, 2011

The American people deserve to know the truth about electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The official consensus on the EMP threat has been ignored by the New York Times (NYT), even after it received a vitally important message from President Reagan’s Science Advisor Dr. William Graham, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and a long list of other top scientists and strategic experts.

On December 12, the NYT ran an irresponsible front page story by William Broad. The NYT, through Broad, falsely implied that Newt Gingrich’s warnings about an EMP attack–an event that could collapse American civilization with a single nuclear weapon–is, according to the NYT, based on bad science. More...

Meeting the Iranian Threat
Henry F. Cooper, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff Jr.
October 17, 2011
As the United States withdraws its combat forces from Iraq and begins a similar drawdown in Afghanistan, Iran is rapidly broadening its reach and presence in and beyond the region — and its technological prowess in weaponry — to undergird a strategy of global proportions, to threaten Americans at home and abroad as well as our overseas friends and allies. As the United States draws down its presence in the region, Iran is moving to fill the resulting power vacuum. U.S. missile-defense plans and programs need to adapt to the likely consequences, including an increasing threat to the U.S. homeland and broadening Iranian influence in the Middle East. MORE...

A Dangerous Gap in Our Defenses?
Henry F. Cooper & Robert L. Pfaltzgraff Jr.
December 14, 2010
For several days in early November, a series of U.S. government agencies were either unable or unwilling to explain what had produced a vapor trail that had illuminated the Southern California skies. Public speculation abounded, first that it was a missile, then that it was in fact the condensation trail (contrail) of a plane. Controversy continues in the blogosphere and elsewhere. MORE...

Electronic Armageddon
National Geographic Explorer
June 16, 2010
What do future presidents need to know about existential dangers this country could face? Explorer investigates the science behind the dangers of a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse, or HEMP. Picture an instantaneous deathblow to the vital engines that power our society, delivered by a nuclear weapon designed not to kill humans but to attack electronics. What could happen if an electromagnetic pulse surged to earth, crippling every aspect of modern society's infrastructure? MORE...

Electro-Magnetic Pulse
Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
The Washington Times, September 7, 2009
With hurricane season upon us once again, the recent anniversary of one of the most deadly and destructive in our nation's history - the mega-storm called Katrina - was an occasion for remembering what can happen if we are unprepared.  Unfortunately, what was arguably the most important lesson of that hurricane has still not been addressed: the truly catastrophic vulnerability of all of the infrastructures upon which our society critically depends to interruptions of the electrical grid. MORE...

An EMP Attack: Thinking the Unthinkable
James Carafano
Washington Examiner, July 27, 2009
When the 9/11 Commission issued its report, it complained that federal agencies had a colossal "failure of imagination." Nobody could accuse Newt Gingrich from suffering that shortfall. More...

America's Newsroom
Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland
Fox News Channel, July 7, 2009

President Obama's trip to Russia...More...

Testimony of William Graham, Chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the U.S. from EMP Attack
House Armed Services Committee
July 10, 2007
"Iran, the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism, has practiced launching a mobile ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Iran has also tested high-altitude explosions of the Shahab-III, a test mode consistent with EMP attack, and described the tests as successful. Iranian military writings explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States. While the Commission does not know the intention of Iran in conducting these activities, we are disturbed by the capability that emerges when we connect the dots." More...

View From the Hill
Representative Roscoe Bartlett
October 19, 2004
"Consider Iran. The leading sponsor of international terrorism, Iran is also defying the efforts of the United Nations to restrain its nuclear ambitions. Iran has successfully tested launching a Scud missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Given the gross inaccuracy of the launch mode, a Scud armed with a nuclear weapon would probably be unable to hit even a very large target, like a city. However, an EMP attack is not dependent upon missile accuracy. Moreover, Iran has conducted a number of flight tests of its Shahab III medium range missile, which have been described as failures by the Western media because the missiles did not complete their ballistic trajectories, but were deliberately exploded at high altitude. Iran has described these same flight tests as successful. Is the West misinterpreting Iran's purpose for these missile flight tests?"  More...

Future Shockwave?
Clifford D. May
August 14, 2008
Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons, and engaging in military discussions regarding EMP and its use against the U.S.

"So what can be done? It would help if Iran were to be prevented - by whatever means - from acquiring nuclear weapons. Failing that, the EMP threat surely adds to the arguments in favor of missile defense." More...

America's Vulnerability to a Different Nuclear Threat: An Electromagnetic Pulse
Jack Spencer
May 26, 2000
Spencer offers multiple scenarios in which an EMP could be used against America's interests. He includes a scenario in which Iran "launches two missiles with nuclear warheads that detonate 250 miles above Illinois and Wyoming. The United States does not retaliate because no one is immediately killed. Not knowing whether Iran has other nuclear warheads, the United States decides to limit its response against Iran rather than risk a direct nuclear attack on a U.S. city." More...

The Electromagnetic Pulse Commission Warns of an Old Threat with a New Face
Jack Spencer
August 3, 2004
"Nations with small numbers of nuclear missiles, such as North Korea or Iran, may consider an EMP attack against U.S. forces in a region, to degrade the U.S. military's technological advantage, or against the United States' national electronic infrastructure." More...

Unready for This Attack
Senator Jon Kyl
April 16, 2005

An EMP attack over the United States would cripple the transportation industry, the food supply, public health, and would create widespread fires that could ultimately raise the death toll.

"Recently a Senate Judiciary subcommittee of which I am chairman held a hearing on a major threat to the American people, one that could come not only from terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda but from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea... Iran has surprised intelligence analysts by describing the mid-flight detonations of missiles fired from ships on the Caspian Sea as ‘successful' tests." More...

Little Congressional Interest in EMP Threat
Defense News
July 10, 2008
"Iran has developed missiles that can loft the nuclear weapon needed for an EMP attack." More...

Nuclear Programs
Iran Confirms Nuclear Component Production
August 29, 2008
Iran has announced that 4,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges are now operating at the country's main enrichment facility at Natanz. The deputy foreign minister, Ali-Reza Sheikh Attar, stated on national television that another 3,000 centrifuges are being installed.

This announcement follows a string of reports documenting the progress of Iran's nuclear program. In September 2007, Iran stated that more than 3,000 centrifuges were operational. In April of this year, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that the country had plans to install 6,000 more over the coming year. This most recent announcement confirms the pace of its nuclear enrichment. More...

Iran Corroborates U.N. Nuclear Monitor's Estimate of Centrifuges in Operation
Washington Post,
August 30, 2008
Iran's deputy foreign minister Ali Reza Sheikh Attar did not state when the 4,000 centrifuges recently installed at Iran's Natanz enrichment facility would become operational. The country still maintains that it plans to build a total of 54,000 centrifuges.

A report by the IAEA in May said Iran may have 6,000 of the machines ready by September. In July, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad falsely announced that Iran already possessed 5,000 centrifuges. Its most recent announcement shaved the number down to 4,000.  More...

Iran's Nuclear Program: Recent Developments
Sharon Squassoni
March 8, 2007
CRS's review of Iran's nuclear capabilities offers a concise look at Iran's nuclear development.

"On August 31, 2006, the IAEA reported that Iran had failed to suspend enrichment related activities and that there were still outstanding issues (GOV/2006/53). Iran's failure to halt enrichment by August 31 has prompted discussion among UNSC members on sanctions." More...

Iran, Russia to finalize fuel delivery
September 2, 2008
In January 1995, Iran and Russia signed an $800 million contract in which Moscow promised to complete one of two nuclear reactors in Bushehr within four years.

Despite the tense standoff between Iran and the members of the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member, the Bushehr plant is nearing completion. More...

Nations Weigh New Iran Sanctions
August 6, 2008
"After Iran's failure to respond to the most recent set of incentives, the UN Security Council has agreed to pursue new U.N. sanctions against Iran. Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said there was consensus in the group that Iran's latest reply to the offer was ‘very disappointing' and ‘a stalling tactic' that had left the group with no option other than to seek new sanctions." Currently, it is unclear what might comprise the fourth set of sanctions and when the council intends to issue them." More...

Ballistic Missiles
Dumping Airborne Laser Leaves America Vulnerable
James Carafano
The Washington Examiner, February 23, 2010

At 8:44 p.m. PST Feb. 11, 2010 ... for just a second ... man made night into day.

A short-range ballistic missile launched from a sea-based platform off California's Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center. Moments later, the Airborne Laser carried aloft in a specially modified 747 detected it.

Then it cranked up the high-energy laser. That beam struck home, burning a small hole in the missile. A split-second later, its structural integrity destroyed, the missile vaporized in a tumbling corkscrew. More...


'US Willing to Discuss Revising Guidelines on Seoul's Missile Range'
Jung Sung-ki
Korea Times, July 8, 2009

"A senior U.S. military officer here said the United States would consult with South Korea to revise guidelines restricting Seoul's missile technology, according to officials of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Tuesday..."More...

The North Korea Situation: Missile Launches and Car Chases
Clifford D. May, Austin Bay and Bill Whittle
Pajamas TV, July 6, 2009

"Why a Nuclear North Korea is bad, even if their missiles can't reach the United States yet..."More...

Iran Threat Justifies Missile Defense, General Says
American Forces Press Service
July 16, 2008
Lt. Gen. Henry A. "Trey" Obering, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the United States is concerned about the threat posed by developments in Iran's missile program.

"Iran is working on an extended-range version of the Shahab-3 and a new 2,000-kilometer medium-range ballistic missile, which they term the Ashura." More...

Iran: Missile Overview
Nuclear Threat Initiative
August 8, 2008
This report provides a review of Iran's missile program and capabilities, from the late 1970s through 2008.

"Iran's ongoing research and development efforts in delivery systems together with its capability at present to employ ballistic missiles and/or long-range artillery rockets against its regional neighbors, Israel, and U.S. forces deployed in the region, continues to be a major concern for its neighbors and Western powers alike." More...

Shahab-3 / Zelzal-3
Federation of American Scientists
January 1, 2007
This FAS summary provides a detailed look at the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, including its capabilities, design history, and test results.

"The Iranian Shahab-3 is a single-stage, liquid-fueled, road-mobile, medium-range ballistic missile with a range of approximately 800 miles (1,280 km)." More...

Federation of American Scientists
November 30, 1999
This FAS summary provides a detailed look at the Shahab-4 ballistic missile.

"The Iranian Shahab-4 missile is believed to be a derivation of the 1,350-1,500 kilometer range North Korean No-dong missile delivering a 1,000-760 kg warhead and the follow on Taep'o-dong-1/Paeutusan-1 launch vehicles." More...

Iran's Missile Program
Bhareth Gopalaswamy
July 15, 2008
"A nuclear weapon program requires not only the production of fissile material and its weaponization, but also an effective and credible delivery system with range, accuracy and survivability."

After assessing the progress of Iran's ballistic missile tests, this report highlights foreign countries' involvement in aiding the program. More...

Rocket can carry low-orbit satellite: Iran
Agence France-Presse
August 19, 2008
"Iranian television claims said the Safir (Ambassador) rocket is capable of putting a ‘light satellite into low earth orbit' between 250 and 500 kilometers above the earth."
The development "raised concerns in Washington that the rocket technology could be diverted to military use." More...

Iran's Ballistic Missile Programs: An Overview
Steven Hildreth
November 8, 2007
This report provides a comprehensive program of Iran's pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles. More...