Monday, January 16, 2006

Suddenly, the Iranian nuclear program is all the buzz. It appears to be nearing the point at which weapons-grade material, if not actual atomic or nuclear weapons, will be in the hands of one of the world’s most dangerous regimes.

Given the magnitude of the danger thus posed, it is astounding that the world’s response to date seems confined to rhetorical hand-wringing and diplomatic maneuvering.

To be sure, President Bush and his newly installed German counterpart spent much of their recent summit on the subject. Their entente on the matter evidently will clear the way for referring it to the U.N. Security Council.

Unfortunately, it seems likely to be subjected there to an open-ended gab-fest. After all, economic sanctions against Iran — the worst punishment most diplomats can imagine — will probably be blocked by the threat of vetoes from Iran’s friends in Moscow and Beijing. In any event, U.S. officials are at pains to say military action is not an option, at least for now.

One can only conclude this rather flaccid response to the prospect of a nuclear-armed, Islamofascist Iran reflects a sense the threat thus posed will be somebody else’s problem. Certainly, it is a problem for Israel, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared should be “wiped off the map.” But since many in the so-called “international community” have little more love than he does for the Jewish State (whether they admit it or not — look at their anti-Israel voting record in the U.N.), the threat to Israel is unlikely to catalyze action against Iran’s mullahocracy.

But what if Iran’s nuclear weapons were actually intended to bring about one of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s other stated objectives: “a world without America”? Would we indulge in still more talk-a-thons like those of the last two-plus years led by the European Union 3 (Britain, France and Germany) — for which the Iranians have publicly expressed appreciation as “buying time” for their nuclear program?

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 ( 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 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.”

If this is, indeed, what the Iranian regime has in mind, would we wait to act? Would we continue to contract out to the Europeans or the United Nations the protection of our security interests? Would we allow the Israelis — who are under no illusion their country faces an existential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran — to act alone against a danger we may share?

The truth is we now have no choice but to take several steps:

(1) We must seek to deter an attack on this country with credible, reliable and useable nuclear forces. This will require resumed nuclear testing and new weapons designed to hold at risk what the Iranian regime holds dear.

(2) We must field at once missile defenses capable of stopping an Iranian EMP attack. This will require immediately expanding the number of Navy ships with the Aegis fleet air defense system equipped to intercept ship-launched ballistic missiles.

(3) We must take active steps to reduce our nation’s vulnerability to EMP attack. Rep. Roy Blunt has expressed his support for such steps. The other candidates to lead House Republicans are among those national leaders who should give this need priority attention.

As these measures take time, we must make a concerted effort to help the Iranian people overthrow their government. The regime that threatens us oppresses them. We can — and must — energetically find ways to work against our common foe.

(4) We may have no choice but to use military force to disrupt, if not destroy, the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Preparations should be in train now as this option may need to be used far more quickly than some would have us believe.

Should such force be necessary, it must be used not only to target the regime’s covert nuclear sites but also the means used by the Iranian government to repress and control its people (e.g., the security services, religious police, intelligence and communication systems). In so doing, we should make clear our solidarity with the people of Iran and that our fight is with their despotic and malevolent mullahs.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and lead-author of “War Footing: Ten Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World.”

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