The Gruesome Twosome!


"The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles . . .  Over the years, we've seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other's countries, and we've seen all kinds of common hardware." ~Jeffrey Lewis, a Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Numerous press accounts, articles and OpEds have been focused on the looming North Korean threat, no doubt because of the recent flurry of North Korea's ballistic missile tests and apparent plans for more, as well as its preparations for associated underground testing of nuclear weapons. We should also be paying close attention to North Korea's ally, Iran-which is not far behind, if at all.

North Korea's Looming Threat.

North Korea's neighbors are experiencing growing concerns about this looming threat.  For example, click here for last Monday's The Sun report that, following the fourth North Korean new missile system test this year, Japan is sufficiently concerned that, before July, 43 television stations across Japan and 70 Japanese newspapers will provide instructions on what to do in case of a North Korean missile attack.

This Japanese concern is about what to do regarding blast effects from such an attack.  However, there is an even more dangerous North Korean threat possibility - and not just to Japan.  It is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat that involves no blast damage whatsoever.  It just turns out the lights...for an indefinite period.  And without electricity, the resulting chaos can be catastrophic.

Click here for my June 9, 2017 Wall Street Journal discussion of this all too real existing threat  ("North Korea Dreams of Turning Out the Lights"), and click here for my associated June 13, 2017 High Frontier message ("Lights Out") elaborating those concerns along with a brief discussion of our efforts to protect against the threat.

These articles focused not on North Korea's future threat, but its already existing existential threat to our nearby troops, friends and allies in South Korea and nearby international waters - and even to Hawaii and possibly even our West Coast.  North Korea could detonate high in or above the atmosphere over its target nation one or more existing nuclear weapons carried by its existing, multiply tested, ballistic missiles. 

The EMP from even only one of its existing nuclear weapons would reduce South Korea to the same status as North Korea, as symbolized by imagining the consequences of "turning out the lights" in the below photo.  The whole peninsular could go dark - as well as China and our nearby ships.

NORTH KOREA _ satellite _ night _ lights NASA fsm text

In addition to the growing appreciation of the possibility of conventional North Korean attacks, another possible benefit of Kim Jong Un's statements and behavior is a growing awareness of this all too possible existential EMP threat. 

For example, the EMP threat from North Korea was evident in an important Fox News' Tucker Carlson interview of John Moore, an electrical engineer who makes the case as well as I could, and in only four minutes. Click here for a youtube video of this important June 23, 2017 interview that left Tucker Carlson speechless.

Without understating this valid concern about the North Korean threat, we should not forget North Korea's ally, Iran, and its potential for gaining the same capability, if it does not already have it.  You can also find evidence of this reality in the press, though North Korea is currently getting most of the attention. Remember, Iran is the "world's largest state sponsor of terrorism," as confirmed by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Iran's Threat and Collusion with North Korea.

Click here for the June 20, 2017 advance web version of Rowan Scarborough's June 21, 2017 Washington Times top-front-page article, "N. Korea helps Tehran build missiles."

Scarborough reports that a dissident "network of spies" has issued a White Paper identifying and documenting work at 42 missile centers operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the regime's dominant security force. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reported a dozen sites that never have been disclosed before.  Click here for the NCRI webpage, and  Click here for related stories.

The White Paper reports that residences have been provided in Tehran for Pyongyang's scientists and technicians, and that North Korea has helped Iran dig tunnels and build "missile cities" deep inside mountains to prevent destruction by airstrikes, among other projects.

The White Paper further reported that "On the basis of specific intelligence, the IRGC's missile sites have been created based on North Korean models and blueprints," and that "North Korean experts have helped the Iranian regime to build them. Underground facilities and tunnels to produce, store, and maintain missiles have also been modeled after North Korean sites and were created with the collaboration of the North Korean experts."

It is widely reported that Iranian scientists and engineers often are present at North Korean missile and nuclear weapons testing.  And also, North Korean scientist and engineers often travel to Iran.  These realities are most troubling when considering the implications of the terrible 2015 deal struck by the Obama administration and five international allies to lift economic sanctions and other financial penalties in exchange for alleged curbs on Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

In that deal, over $100 Billion in previous sanctions on Iran were removed making it feasible - nay, probable - that Iran can and will buy from North Korea whatever technological knowhow and actual weapon systems it needs and cannot produce itself through its ongoing, unabated efforts - whatever may be the claims of the supporters of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  

Hopefully, the Trump administration will re-assess its thus far decision to continue to support the deal. (Click here for an April 19, 2017 Reuters article on this decision-a mistake in my opinion.) Candidate Trump, in my opinion, correctly criticized the JCPOA and said he would end it. Even supporters of the Obama deal say there has been little sign that Iran has moderated its behavior, including the series of ballistic missile tests in recent months that violate U.N. sanctions.

So enough, already!

According to Scarborough's Washington Times article, the National Council of Resistance of Iran White Paper pays close attention to the Semnan Missile Center, a complex of storage facilities and launching pads for medium-range ballistic missiles in north-central Iran, where missile work is melded with nuclear research conducted by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known by the Persian acronym SPND, first disclosed in 2011.

In 2014, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on SPND for conducting illicit work not allowed at by the pending nuclear deal. A council official said that since the JCPOA, "The speed and scope of activities and research in Semnan has increased significantly in this period and the exchanges and traffic between SPND."

Nothing New Here.

It should be understood that little if anything in Scarborough's important article should be a surprise.  As just one reference to validate this claim, click here for an important March 20, 2013 World Net Daily article by Reza Kahlili, "Revealed! Evidence Iran Crossed Nuclear Red Line" which revealed details about Iran's enriched uranium, plutonium stockpiles four years ago - including an impressive set of "Google Earth" photographs identified to be associated with Iran's underground/tunnel operations.

Scarborough reported that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies last February indicated that Iran had test-fired 14 ballistic missiles since the JCPOA as was signed in July 2015, flouting U.N. resolutions repeatedly. Since February, Iran has conducted at least two more tests. On Sunday, Iran for the first time since 2001 fired an operational missile outside its boundaries, targeting an Islamic State-controlled town in eastern Syria.

As was reported by the Independent Working Group (IWG) in 2009, Iran has long made massive investments in ballistic missiles. Click here for this important report and consider especially Chapter 1 on the threat - and consider how that threat has expanded in the last decade.  Iran now owns one of the world's largest inventories of ballistic missiles.  

Moreover, as reported by the IWG and in other places, including by the Congressional EMP Commission, Iran in the late 1990s launched one of its early ballistic missiles from a vessel in the Caspian Sea and suspiciously triggered an action at high altitude, directly analogous to what would be required to execute an EMP attack.

Thus, not only North Korea - which has been the focus of most of the recent attention as a rogue state threat, but also Iran should be considered to be capable of delivering a devastating EMP attack. 

Furthermore, click here for a June 26, 2017 Bloomberg Press' summary of a recent, as yet not public, Pentagon report "Missile Threats Surging Worldwide, U.S. Defense Study Finds." The authors, Tony Capaccio and Larry Liebert, notably observe that the report states that "Ballistic missiles can be deployed in silos, on submarines, surface ships, road- and rail-mobile launchers and aircraft," and that "Mobile missiles can provide greater pre-launch survivability. The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in ballistic missile capabilities to include accuracy, post-boost maneuverability, and combat effectiveness." 

And they conclude with the report's specific summary findings that:

  • "Tehran's desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran's space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies." Iran has modified its medium-range Shahab 3 ballistic missile, which is based on a North Korean model, to extend its range and effectiveness. The longest-range variant reportedly is able to reach targets at a distance of about 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles.) The U.S. agencies assess that Iran currently has fewer than 50 Shahab 3s.
  • "China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world. It is developing and testing offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses."
  • China is expected to increase the number of warheads on its ICBMs capable of threatening the United States to substantially more than 100 by 2022 from the "relatively small number of nuclear armed, liquid-propellant" CSS-3 and CSS-4 ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. today.
  • Russia, which surpassed the U.S. in 2014 in deployed nuclear warheads, "is expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States."


Finally, in conclusion of this article, please recall my repeated report that the EMP Commissioners noted almost a decade ago that Russian Generals had informed them that how to build "Super EMP" weapons had been passed to North Korea, Iran's erstwhile partner in seeking nuclear armed ballistic missiles. (These are low-yield nuclear weapons - like the yield of those tested by North Korea -  in a configuration that produces lots of gamma rays to interact with the earth's geomagnetic field, producing EMP effects.)

Moreover, as also previously reported, North Korea and Iran include employing EMP effects in their military doctrine and plans - just like Russia and China.  

And don't forget the regular Iranian chant, "Death to America" - the Great Satan - and to Israel - the Little Satan. 

Bottom Lines.

It's hard to choose between North Korea and Iran as to which is the worse threat. They both can deliver an EMP attack from vessels off our coasts or from one of their satellites that approach us from our mostly undefended south, as reported many times over that past several years.  And either could fund surrogate terrorists to attack us from vessels off our coasts, especially from the Gulf of Mexico.

Most frustrating is that there is nothing new here. Click here for one of my reports from over a year ago - discussing why low yield nuclear weapons may work just fine in creating wide area EMP effects; here and here from three years ago - discussing that both Iran and North Korea can deliver such EMP weapon from satellites that approach the United States from our undefended south; and finally here and here from four years ago  -  discussing more specifics on launching such attacks and examples of how the Defense Department protects our military strategic systems against EMP, and the fact that there is no one in charge of protecting our critical civil infrastructure against EMP.   

Sadly, that is still the case . . . Oh well . . . Still waiting for an effective response to this worsening "gruesome twosome" existential threat . . .  

Time to begin to pay attention?  You think?

Hope springs eternal . . .

Stand by . . .

What can you do

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Ambassador Henry F. Cooper is Chairman of High Frontier and a former Acquisition Executive for all U.S. ballistic missile defenses.  He also served in several other senior USG acquisition and policy positions, including as President Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union. He is currently focused on helping local, state and federal authorities protect against the natural and manmade EMP threat by building effective ballistic missile defenses and hardening the electric grid. Otherwise, loss of the electric grid would freeze America's "just in time" economy, leaving most Americans without means for survival.


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