Iran on the Offensive

Yves here. This post may seem a smidge wide of usual NC fare, but it caught my attention because it discussed electromagnetic pulse weapons. I’ve frankly been stunned at how little discussion there has been of then up to now. Anyone who has read Cryptonomicon, or merely has gotten a magnet too close to a computer is familiar with the concept: magnetic fields fry chips, and it is possible to create a device that can send a magnetic pulse over a distance. The technical details are way over my pay grade, but my understanding is that it would not be hard to construct an inexpensive device that could do a lot of damage to electronic infrastructure, which is a major point of vulnerability. If you think America is in a fraught position thanks to the Chinese stranglehold over rare earths, which enables them to dictate who gets first dibs on certain types of chips and advanced electronic components, think of what might happen in the wake of an EMP attack. I suspect they only reason this sort of threat hasn’t been the focus of a major action movie is that Hollywood is afraid of getting on the wrong side of the military-industrial complex.

By James Stafford, editor of OilPrice. Cross posted from OilPrice

Until now, the Arab oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf, also called the Arabian Gulf, or to those seeking political neutrality, simply the Gulf, looked at their Persian neighbour with suspicion and trepidation. The fear came from mainly the military superiority that Iran wields over the Gulf, Persian or Arabian, depending on how you prefer to call it.

The reasons behind the animosity between Arabs and Persians are numerous. There is the historic schism of culture, language, tribal, territorial but also religious. For the most part the Arabs are Sunni and the Iranians are Shia. Yet, although being a religious differential opposing the two sides, the schism is not one of theology.

As explains Dr. Fred Donner, professor of Islamic history at the University of Chicago, to say that there is a theological difference between the Sunni and the Chia would be similar to saying there is a theological difference between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, the military balance is important: judge for yourself. In terms of simple numbers, those currently in active service in the following countries, Bahrain, 8,200, Kuwait 15,000, Saudi Arabia, 223,500, Qatar, 11,800, the United Arab Emirates, 51,000. Altogether, that amounts to 309,500 personnel.

Iran meanwhile has some 545,000 active frontline personnel and an additional 650,000 in the reserves. Iran has 2,895 tanks, 1,500 armored fighting vehicles, 310 self-propelled guns, 2,368 towed artillery pieces, 860 rocket launchers, 5,000 portable mortar launchers, close to 1,800 planes and 800 helicopters –though it is questionable how many are still operational. Iran has also an important naval presence in the Gulf, including specially trained units capable of disrupting international oil shipping routes through the very strategic Straits of Hormuz.

Those are the conventional forces. In addition, perhaps just as dangerous, if not all the more so is the Islamic Republic’s capability to carry out asymmetrical warfare against the United States, the Gulf countries and other Western powers, such as members of NATO or the European Union.

Under the heading of asymmetrical warfare comes two subheadings; cyber terrorism, and electromagnetic pulse, also known as EMP.

The effects of either one alone could be devastating on the infrastructure of a civilized society.

Cyber warfare attacks computers and computer systems and can create havoc in the banking system, the North American electric grid, flight control systems and even find its way into military systems and security computers and intelligence and counterintelligence systems.

The electromagnetic pulse is quite as lethal if deployed properly, something Iran already know how to do according to several sources who closely follow Iran’s progress in that field.

Without going into too many technical details electromagnetic pulse works by setting off a high-frequency signal high above the earth that incapacitates an enemy’s command-and-control systems, and paralyzes anything that has an electronic component attached to it. That means airplanes, tanks, cars, ships and so on and so forth, would be put out of action instantly and without the need to deploy military forces.

As if that was not enough to worry about, Iran holds one more trump card: the religious fervor that motivates many of its fighters, who urged by the mullahs are led to believe they are carrying out Gods work.

Yet despite all the above, the religious leadership in Iran today remain fearful of what a popular vote and truly impartial and unhindered elections could do to its grip on power.

As the country prepares for elections next June the regime is taking no chances and sending out not-so discreet signals to anyone who might even think about staging a repetition of the riots that broke out at the time of the last election a few years ago.

One such a message came in the form of pictures distributed by Iran’s official news agency of a specially made machine designed to perform “quick and easy amputation of the fingers of thieves.”

In addition to the amputation, one government official announced that convicted criminals also sentenced to three years in prison and 99 lashes. Western human rights groups have noted that as the elections approach the authorities in Iran are making stronger statements about corporal punishment.

This is no coincidence.

It is also no coincidence that the approach of the election the regime has begun a new offensive to silence journalists who might raise their voices against the government. In the past few days a dozen journalists from six different media organizations have been detained in Iran.

A well-known physician activist Mohammad Nourizad told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that by arresting journalists “the authorities are issuing a warning.” In a separate incident on January 27 authorities raided reformist newspapers and arrested a number OF journalists.

One might say that this reinforces the saying that the ballot remains more powerful than the bullet.

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  1. rkka

    While Iran’s internal policies are abhorrent, Iran’s military spending is about 1/3 of Saudi Arabia’s alone.

    Defensively, they are formidable.

    Offensively, they aren’t up to much.

    1. sleepy

      The US appears to have no problems in getting along with most abohorrent regimes in the ME.

      Say what you will about Iran, but it is a far more liberal society culturally, politically, and theologically than our allies in the region.

      That may not be saying much, but in much of the discourse on Iran among the US public, it’s Iran’s widely demonized “abhorrence”, which seems to carry the day.

      I hate to see comments which appear to further that.

      1. Mogley

        James Stafford is the Publisher, not the author.
        The Author of this odious article is Claude Salhani -author and ‘political analyst’ based in Beirut.

        Recent articles by the same author:
        Tue 29 January 2013 – Iran on the Offensive
        Tue 22 January 2013 – Oil, Democracy, and Ideas
        Tue 15 January 2013 – A New Middle East Crisis in the making
        Tue 09 January 2013 – Iran’s Real Threat to the West
        Tue 01 January 2013 – Syria’s Oil Now a Target of Civil War
        Tue 11 December 2012 – US Fighting Terrorism with Financial Weapons (this one is just so HSBC)
        Tue 13 November 2012 – Iran’s Nuclear Plant Entering Final Stages?

        So, we get an indication of the author’s general precept.

        I think Yves must have been getting laid by this Stafford guy when she agreed to cross post this drivel. “…a smidge wide of usual NC fare”. Really? What’s next Alex Jones, David Icke and Glenn Beck posts? And….

        “it discussed electromagnetic pulse weapons. I’ve frankly been stunned at how little discussion there has been of then up to now” (Wow! so “au courant”, Yves).

        Stunned? Really? HSBC not being prosecuted for money laundering, aiding and abetting and enemy and having a misleading company name is “stunning”, not that some ‘wogs’ haven’t launched a commercial aircraft loaded with multi-million dollar, highly engineered electronics above NY and set off a EMP device in the same way that Boeing has only just, partially, managed to achieve after a ten year research program.

        BTW. No need for Yves’s to apologize to NC’s reader for this shit. We know that in such instances, Yves’s silence is golden. Or is that red?

        1. AK

          I am an ardent reader and supporter of NC, but I cannot help but agree with you here; this fact that this drivel ever made it near NC is disappointing in the extreme.

          If you wanted to post an article about electromagnetic weapons there are many scientific articles that have been published over the last 60+ years on the topic. I come here for empirical analysis; instead I am subjected to the thinly veiled anti-Iranian hysteria that is part of the very machinery NC seeks to expose.

          Let’s be clear: Iran certainly has it’s internal problems, including a questionable human rights record and a regime that is arguably unrepresentative of the people’s best interests? So? That description is not unique and could be applied equally to many nations including the US, to varying degrees. Using Iran’s internal issues and the empty rhetoric of its leaders which, to date, has been nothing more than rhetoric, to immediately jump to the unsupported conclusion that Iran is planning nuclear/electromagnetic attacks on foreign nations is intellectual laziness in the extreme.

          And, of course, intellectual laziness is willingly slurped up by the masses (it is, after all, so much easier to consume than tedious facts), which is why this has been such an easy sell worldwide by the US and the Israeli lobby.

  2. JustMeAgaiN

    If you think America is in a fraught position thanks to the Chinese stranglehold over rare earths…

    I think Amerika is in a fraught position because it has anointed itself the “benign dictator” to the whole world and has at every turn decided to impose its will on others rather than seek joint cooperation toward a common good (especially one that didn’t involve blowing things up and killing “evil doers”), which may or not toe the corporate fascist party line. And I think focusing on Iran is just another feeble attempt to find an existential boogeyman under the bed in the MICC’s never ending quest to scare the piss out of the American people so that they’ll roll over into a submissive position and let our “dear leaders defend their vital interests.”

    1. from Mexico

      JustMeAgaiN siad:

      …and let our “dear leaders defend their vital interests.”

      That “their” part needs emphisizing over and over and over again.

      As Reinhold Niebuhr observed way back in 1932 in Moral Man and Immoral Society:

      At present the economic overlords of a nation have special interests in the profits of international trade, in the exploitation of weaker peoples and in the acquisition of raw materials and markets, all of which are only remotely relevant to the welfare of the whole people. They are relevant at all only because, under the present organisation of society, the economic life of a whole nation is bound up with the private enterprises of individuals. Furthermore the unequal distribution of wealth under the present economic system concentrates wealth which cannot be invested, and produces goods which cannot be absorbed, in the nation itself. The whole nation is therefore called upon to protect the investments and the markets which the economic overlords are forced to seek in other nations.

  3. Jessica

    “I suspect they only reason this sort of threat hasn’t been the focus of a major action movie is that Hollywood is afraid of getting on the wrong side of the military-industrial complex.”

    This is the weapon that the humans used against the machines in The Matrix. At least in sci-fi circles, that was hardly a new concept even then.
    I also remember discussion in the NY Times in the 80s that a few Soviet H-bombs set off at the right (much higher) altitude would fry all the electronics in the country.

    1. Almost Ghetto

      They used an EMP in the Movie Oceans 11, but they called it a pinch. In the movie it only cut power for a short time before backup generators took over. An EMP is generated every time an atomic bomb goes off. Although the electronics are much worse off from the explosion than the EMP. I find it hilarious that the author is pointing to Iran or terrorist as being able to use an EMP to hurt the US. This is laughable. If these things are so easy to build, how come there is no example of one every being used? The US would have these things way before Iran, and you can be sure we would be using them to spread Corporate Freedom to indiginous people…I mean militants in non client states.

      1. Optimader

        “…Although the electronics are much worse off from the explosion than the EMP….”
        Not neccesarily, there are nukes designed for the express purpose of being detonated at high altitude or in space, generating very energetic EMF pulses to damage electrical grid and of course solid state electronics…..

        So ill be driving in style in my mid-60’s Jag E-Type listening to analog radio with the wind in my my hair while dodging all the modern vehicles on static display with fried electronic ignitions and silent Sirrius radios.

        1. redleg

          Except an EMP attack over the US will disable/disrupt the power grid, so that means no fuel for your analog car and major food availability problems.
          I’m more concerned with N Korea and their combination of weapons and head of state than Iran.

    2. Lexington

      This is the weapon that the humans used against the machines in The Matrix. At least in sci-fi circles, that was hardly a new concept even then.

      You’re joking, right?

      EMP effects were predicted by Enrico Fermi and observed when the first nuclear weapon was detonated at Trinity, New Mexico in 1945.

      The Starfish Prime test in 1962, which involved a high altitude nuclear detonation, demonstrated the effect was much greater than initially expected.

      In short, the EMP effect has been known for decades to students of the technology – long, long before The Matrix.

  4. ebear

    Anywhere that young men significantly outnumber young women, or where young women are culturally off limits to young men, you’ll find large standing armies. Short of prison, it’s the only way to keep young men out of trouble. Whether they’d be an effective fighting force is a different matter. Since staying alive is the goal of any draftee, when surrender is an option, it’s the path most would take. The officer corps, realizing this, will be the first to bug out since the alternative is being wasted by your own guys.

    Like Iraq, Iran would fall apart in a matter of hours. The problem is not defeating them, it’s what do you do afterwards.

    1. from Mexico

      ebear says:

      Anywhere that young men significantly outnumber young women, or where young women are culturally off limits to young men, you’ll find large standing armies. Short of prison, it’s the only way to keep young men out of trouble.

      So that explains Iran’s beligerence and intransigence!
      Who woulda thunk it?

      1. ebear

        “So that explains Iran’s beligerence and intransigence!”

        Funny, I don’t recall addressing either of those points.

        Strange how people read things into what you say….

      2. scraping_by

        Objecting to assassinations of Iranian scientists is belligerence?

        Not folding under economic boycott is intransigence?

        You’re obviously too young to remember Cold War Propaganda. Not admitting defeat by our unprovoked attacks is evidence of the Godless Communist, er, Godmad Islamist, conspiracy to rule the world.

    2. ambrit

      Dear ebear;
      I dunno pard, what about that Revolutionary Guard force? Add religion to your list of “things to keep single young men out of trouble” and you get much closer to the reality. Also don’t underestimate the psychological power of Nationalism. Look at what happened in Iraq. And they weren’t anywhere nearly as culturally unified as Iran is, even with the demonstrations. Do notice how few real revolutionaries are popping up in Iran. Most seem content to agitate for incremental change within the existing system. (Real Iranians correct me if I’m wrong please.) Finally, remember that the Wests’ history of engagement with Iran has been one bloody betrayal after another. They’d be fools to trust us again.

      1. ohmyheck

        Dear Ambrit, I am not a real Iranian, but I did have Christmas dinner this year with my Iranian family-by-marriage, replete with wonderful Persian cuisine. So, from our conversations I can tell you that we all agree that both Iranians and Americans are stuck with their off-the-rails governments, who do not represent the will of The People, and we are all in the same boat. Only the physical locations are different.

        Oh, and Grandpa loved Mossedegh in the same way that I loved Kennedy. And he was distressed that his grandson didn’t have any neighborhood kids to got outside and kick a soccer ball around with.
        Funny, the things human beings concern themselves with.

      2. ebear

        “I dunno pard, what about that Revolutionary Guard force?”

        A common feature of conscript armies in unpopular regimes is an elite force tasked with maintaining discipline. In wartime this means guns at your back, so you’d better advance on the enemy. The Russians did this in WWII, Iraq same thing. Iran is no different. A friend of mine who served in the Iranian army during the Iran/Iraq war told me this. From a tactical standpoint, defeating such an army is a question of identifying, then taking out the elite force. Do that, and white flags will pop up like dandelions after a spring rain.

        1. Pepe

          The fun begins after the regular army collapses/is defeated and melts back into the civilian population. The US would have great difficulties with the guerrilla war that follows.

          And that’s not even counting the Iranian silkworm missiles. I imagine they’d be a point of emphasis to be taken out in the first strike, but I’d hate to be sitting on a ship in the gulf during the initial push.

    3. Lexington

      Anywhere that young men significantly outnumber young women, or where young women are culturally off limits to young men, you’ll find large standing armies

      Yeah, that totally explains why major European powers (and many minor ones) had large standing armies from the French Revolution to the end of the Cold War. Also, the US from 1942 to the end of the Cold War.

      Btw how is it that Iran has a lot more men then women and / or women are “culturally off limits to young men” but this situation doesn’t pertain to – say, Bahrain, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia?

  5. from Mexico

    “Crush humanity out of shape once more,” Charles Dickens wrote of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, “under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.”

    And the United States, in the name of spreading freedom and democracy, has quite a knack for “crushing humanity out of shape.” The history of US involvement in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh, and the installation of the brutal dictatorship of the Shah of Iran, is laid out in detail in The Power Principle, beginning here at minute 8:00

    The US, with its neo-imperialististic ambitions to impose neoliberalism on the world, has repeated this same prescription time and time again throughout the world. International liberalism, rebranded neoliberalism now but still the spitting image of its 19th-century twin, was and is always imposed by violent means. Politics and economics are inseparable, despite what liberal theory says.

    Georgy Gounev has pointed out that the US is in the process of creating even more monsters like Iran. For instance, here’s Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi from a speech he delivered in front of an enthusiastic crowd on May 13, 2012:

    The Koran is our constitution. The Prophet Muhammad is our leader. Jihad is our path. And death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration.

    But, as Georgy Gounev asks:

    Wouldn’t it be logical to expect that before issuing an invitation to Morsi to visit him at the White House, President Obama would ask his future guest how, if he believes that the country must be subjected to Islamic Law, he intends to defend the secular constitution of Egypt?

    If Jihad is the path Morsi wants to follow, then how can President Obama treat him as his guest? It is understandable: Once he contributed to Morsi’s ascension to power, the President has to deal with him on the issues of international politics. This fact does not mean, however, that Mr. Obama should lay down a red carpet for him. A White House reception for Morsi will represent a huge boost to — and an endorsement of — the “gathering storm” of Islamic Fundamentalism. Weren’t the Jihadists the ones who murdered thousands of Americans, and have openly stated that one of their most important goals has always been to destroy the American political system?

    If the occupant of the White House after November 2012 does not know how to say the words ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’, America will face tough times ahead not only abroad, but at home as well.

    So there are always other agendas at work in US foreign policy besides the declared ones. How does one explain such blatant and grotesque internal incoherence when it comes to such fundamental principles?

    The British filmmaker Adam Curtis on his blog recently posted a possible explanation. Here’s Curtis:

    What remains is all the footage recording Gaddafi’s forty year career as a global weirdo. But the closer you look at the footage and what lies behind it – you begin to discover an odd story that casts a rather unflattering light on many of the elites in both the British and American establishments.

    Because over those forty years all sorts of people from the west got mixed up with Gaddafi. Some were simply after his money and they flattered and crept to him because they wanted to be his friend. But for many others he was more useful as an enemy and they helped to turn Gaddafi into a two-dimensional cartoon-like global villain.

    Those involved were not just politicians, but journalists, spies from the CIA and MI6, members of Washington think tanks, academics, PR firms, philosophers of humanitarian intervention, posh left wing revolutionaries and the leaders of the IRA.

    They all had different aims, and were trying to use Gaddafi in different ways. But underlying almost all of them was a common fear – a feeling that power and influence was slipping away from them, and that increasingly they didn’t understand what was going on in the world.

    In response, all these different groups began to simplify the world. They all did this in their own ways, but whether they were politicians or journalists or spies, they all began to create an almost pantomime-like picture of the world that maintained their own illusion of control and helped to disguise their loss of power from the general public.

    And Colonel Gaddafi happily played a starring role in that pantomime as an absurd clown because it too gave him the global power and influence that he craved.

    Together the western elites and Gaddafi helped to lead us into a simplistic two-dimensional vision of the world – full of exaggerations and falsehoods. A fake bubble of certainty that has imprisoned us in the west – and is now preventing us from understanding what is really going on in the world outside.


    The question at the heart of this whole story is – Who was the ventriloquist? And who was the dummy?

    Maybe we were the dummy? By allowing perception management with its simplifications, falsehoods and exaggerations to create a simplified vision of the world – we fell into a fake universe of certainty when really we were just watching a pantomime.

    And now as the Arab Spring unfolds and reveals the true chaos and messiness of the real world – above all the horror of what is happening in Syria – we find ourselves completely unable to understand it or even know what to do. So those stories get ignored while we follow others with clearer and more simplified dramas which have what seem to be obvious goodies and baddies – thank god for Iran, North Korea and Jimmy Savile.

    1. JEHR

      from Mexico, you are really on the mark in your comments. In Canada we are just now learning that a Quebec company (SNC Lavalin) has been accused of giving large bribes to Gaddafi’s son for special considerations in his country and there is a woman employee of that firm being held in prison in Mexico having been accused of planning to whisk Gaddafi’s family to safety during the revolution. I’m sure there is a lot more to learn.

    2. citalopram

      I find your writing so much better than some others around here, including my own. You should really be writing pieces for NC.

    3. ebear

      “And the United States, in the name of spreading freedom and democracy, has quite a knack for “crushing humanity out of shape.””

      By this logic, Japan and Germany (not to mention Mexico) should be truly hideous regimes.

      In research, 99% of all mistakes are caused by ASSUMING something from the outset. — Martin Armstrong

      1. Goat_farmers_of_the_CIA

        “In research, 99% of all mistakes are caused by ASSUMING something from the outset.”

        And what about your own assumptions, ebear? That allows you to see the seriously crooked regimes the US set up in Germany and Japan and the ones it has been helping in Mexico as models of humanity and democracy? Judged by the decrepit standard the US itself provides to the world, even Iran gets off lightly. After all, Iran hasn’t attacked any of its neighbors in more than a hundred years, while the US and its lapdogs have been all over the place mass murdering in the most cowardly manners.

        But for a dumb troll like you, it is all ok as long as women get a glass celing and gays have the right to marry – but also to die homeless and hungry if they fall through an increasingly shabby net and join the unlucky many.

        What new childish tricks will you pull out of your Objectivist hat, you mentally challenged paid lackey of Empire and the spoilt brats it shelters, to avoid admitting the above? All the world’s wit won’t help you when sooner or later you are caught licking the boot of your master…

  6. Steve

    Many thanks for all you do. I read your blog every day.

    Caveat: I’m an EE, but I’m not in the EMP end of things, I design small analog chips.
    I consider the EMP weapon in Cryptonomicon complete (but excellent) fiction. The field intensity required to do physical damage to electronics is HUGE. The problem is coupling a lot of energy into a very small spot.
    Most EMP discussion centers around a nuclear bomb going off in the upper atmosphere. You have a huge pulse, and it spreads over a large area by ionizing the atmosphere. It affects power lines, just like solar disturbances. The effects require both a huge pulse of energy and ionizing a large swath of the atmosphere. They also need a large receiver, like a power grid.
    The best I’ve seen for a not very portable non-nuclear EMP weapon is a directed pulse generator that can cause a modern, computer controlled car to actually turn off. It is not a wide area weapon. It is delivering enough of a voltage pulse to change memory states and interrupt the program running on the computers. This is not damage, just shutting the system down. I’m pretty sure all you have to do is turn it back on.

    1. from Mexico

      Steve says:

      I consider the EMP weapon in Cryptonomicon complete (but excellent) fiction.

      Yea, but as JustMeAgaiN says above, it sure helps in the “never ending quest to scare the piss out of the American people so that they’ll roll over into a submissive position.”

    2. Clive

      I agree with your analysis Steve. The only viable EMP weapon I’ve ever heard described is an air burst in the megaton range of an atomic device in the high atmosphere. Anything less would not generate nearly enough EM energy to do anything more than make a light bulb flicker a bit.

      Turning back to Iran, then, even if they got a fission device ready (and okay, using atomic ordinance as an EMP weapon does sort out a lot of the deployment issues — all you need is a jet plane) it is very, very hard to generate a yield of more than 100 kilotons. 10 to 20 is much more like it. Tritium enriched devices are less onerous than a full-on fusion weapon (H-bomb) to build but still require a very visible development and test cycle. Long before Iran would be allowed to get to that point, outside powers would take action against it.

      And even then, even if I assume that somehow a non nuclear EMP device was feasible, using it in the fashion described would almost certainly be viewed as a hugely hostile act which would inflict indiscriminate harm on a civilian population with a questionable strategic military aim. An EMP device in this context can certainly be classified as a terror weapon. It is inconceivable that the US or Israel would not respond to it in with a non-conventional counter-attack.

      Sorry, it’s all a bit too much of tin-foil hat conspiracy theory for me to take that seriously.

      1. Tiresias

        I half believe there already is an EMP weapon out there, primed and ready to go.

        It’s called the Sun.

        I’ve Google it but after wading through several pages of reference varying from the unreliable to the downright weird can’t seem to find anything authoritative on the subject. However I’m still half-convinced that TPTB have acknowledged the possibility that a sufficiently powerful solar storm could affect the electonics infrastructure than now runs half the world.

        1. Tom Parsons

          EMPs from the sun and from nukes are quite different.

          The sun causes pulses whose power (i.e. energy/time) is low because the effects are relatively slow to develop. Much energy, but arriving relatively slowly. This is tantamount to saying the wavelength is very long.

          Antennas, ranging from cross-country power lines to the wiring in your cellphone, respond selectively to wavelength, so it is the long wires of the power grid that will carry the hit from solar effects, frying their (big, costly, slow to replace) transformers.

          Nukes detonate rapidly, producing a lot of energy in a short time, and EMP fields that can generate significant (damaging) voltages even in the short strips of metal that carry current in electronic devices.

          1. redleg

            Nailed it, Mr. Parsons.
            An EMP nuke device can cause enormous damage to the electrical grid over a very, very large area. This would disrupt the delivery of fuel, water, and food to the affected areas, as well as other problems like sewage conveyance and treatment, food storage, medical care, etc.

        2. bobw

          There was a solar event in 1859 that affected telegraph lines, shocking operators and causing fires. Something that strong should have EMP-like consequences.

      2. Procopius

        Thank you all for the information about EMP weapons. They were discussed quite a lot back in the 90’s, maybe some in the 80’s, as America’s greatest vulnerability. I think the purpose was to double the number of hardened missile sites, or maybe to promote the Star Wars anti-ballistic missile thingy (which still doesn’t work, even though it’s being deployed so the contractors can continue to feed on it for many years to come). I had suspected at the time the threat was much overblown. But don’t suppose inflicting generalized damage on the civilian populace would not be a worthwhile military strategy. I remember very well how successful the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong strategy of Tet ’68 was. Although they lost almost all the Viet Cong cadres in the South they completely turned the American people against the war by demonstrating how the government and military had been lying to us. In the long run, that won the war for them. Of course they were helped by the fact that we had such terribly poor strategic thinking. As John Kenneth Galbraith said at the time, it was “the worst-managed war since 1812.” There used to be a whole industry of “strategic thinking” in the U.S. that determined our nuclear, military, and foreign policy. Most of it turned out to be wrong and counter to our real interests.

    3. gepay

      While a large scale EMP pulse needed to fry electronics over a large area would need an energy source as big as a nuclear explosion I imagine that a portable EMP device has been devised which could knock out the electronics on a small airplane coming in for a landing. Imagine the havoc it would cause to say Senator Wellstone’s plane to have all the electronics intermmittently cut out as they were in the act of landing. Going back to frying the electronics of a large area, I imagine the sunlight available outside the atmosphere of the the Earth could be suitably concentrated but it is much more likely this would be done by the US than Iran.

    4. Optimader

      Correct assessment imo. An effective EMP attack presupposes a atmospheric nuke.
      Googe (ironically enough) ; HEMP is an acronym for high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse.

  7. Antagonist

    This article bugs me…

    The title suggests Iran as an aggressor, while the text pretty much just states that it has a standing army and an advantageous naval position, and the arabs and persians don’t always see eye to eye: nothing on actually being on the offensive. Then the whole part where the Iran government is cracking down on thieves is played as some anti-democratic gesture with no evidence to that? Cracking down on thieves is ‘a message’ against standing up to the regime?

    Fine, maybe it can be one of the ‘tools of oppression’, going along with oppression of journalists, something NO WESTERN NATION would EVER consider.

    But alright, lets assume for a second the arguable position that Iran is not just acting defensively to the fact that both America and Isreal are racing to being the strongest against them with statements to the effect of wanting to wipe Iran off the map… But that they are both evil and suicidal and intends an all-out attack on all that is good… Lets assume they make use of these asymmetrical tools at their disposal…

    RE Cyber Warfare:
    Why has Stuxnet not been pointed out yet? You know, the cyber warfare weapon designed and deployed AGAINST Iran. Whatever threats Iran might pose they are behind the curve on offensive cyber warfare, even moreso with the US’s recent expansions on this front.

    Now in order for Iran to be a threat on this front, it assumes that their targets would not bother to harden their IT systems… Like hackers would only ever hack financial systems in times of war, cos there’s no reason to do it otherwise? And the electric grid would naturally have a shutdown button on their website, and the military and intelligence servers spend no money on security are notoriously weak against external hacks… I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t seem viable to me as a weapon that can do more than annoy an enemy in a set of isolated cases.

    RE EMP:
    As Steve says above, the power requirements needed for a EMP that effects a decent area, aka enough to actually do more than just stop your car and force you to turn the ignition, is HUGE. So huge that any such device will need a massive power supply capable of dumping a truly fantastic amount of energy into the surrounding area at once. A power supply like… a nuke.

    Of course, there is also the issue that milspec electronics are designed to be hardened against EMP. I won’t say invulnerable, but you’d need a lot higher power at much shorter range to affect a military vehicle the same way as a civilian, which limits its use in war since… you want to disable the guy in the military helicopter shooting at you, not the office clerk or doctor.

    Whatever the US wants you to believe, there is so far no evidence that Iran has a nuke, or even a nuclear weapons program.

    I’m not gonna pretend that Iran is a model nation, but this article has no substance and is simply a product of fear mongering. And what bugs me even more is the laziness in not citing even a single source for all its myriad of broad claims.

    1. pleas

      My thoughts are quite inline with yours. The title popped out right away. I thought perhaps in this case the author was going to describe a new and unique way Iran was upping the game so to speak that isn’t a reaction to the incredible forces up against it. Sort of like how a soccer team finally gets the ball out to the other side after playing defense. No such luck.

      A fake act of war plunged the US into a war with Vietnam. Yet Stuxnet, characterized by the US as an act of war, hasn’t had quite the same effect on Iran amongst many other acts. In a direct comparison I would say Iran has shown incredible restraint.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        Re your observation that a false act of war was created to justify U.S. engagement in Vietnam, I would add that there have been other false flag operations, some very successful in the eyes of their designers, others not so much.

        There is certainly a possibility the table is being set, no?

    2. Jagger

      This is standard neocon fear propaganda of the sort used to whip up support for the invasion of Iraq. I haven’t heard of the author but I wouldn’t be surprised at all by what you might dig up with a little digging.

      Here are a few simple questions to keep things in perspective.

      How many hundreds of years since Iran has invaded anyone? How many countries has Israel and/or US attacked or invaded in the last, say, decade, just in the middle east? When is the last time Iran was invaded and who provided military support for the invaders?

      Of course, the neocon author of this bit of propaganda is fully aware of all this background but he is hoping you are not.

      1. citalopram

        I would also add this question: How many regimes has the CIA destablized in the past 60 years?

    3. sleepy

      I agree as well. A disappointing article by NC standards. The political neocon overtones imho reduced its credibility on the magnetic weapon issue.

    4. Optimader

      This article bugs me…
      Correct, we have taught iran their best defense is a plausable offense. File next to: pakistan nuke.

      Yes milspec electronics, but what is up for grabs is frying the northamerican electrical grid… All the high trnsion lines and any connected power transformer

      1. Antagonist

        Yes, my point with the hardened military electronics was simply that EMP has little tactical use in a war, you are better off just using your nuke as a bomb.

        It has some use as a terror weapon though, both as EMP and bomb, but the logistical issues of getting it to your target when I am not aware of them having any long range stealth bombers up to the task.

        This would also assume Iran being suicidally crazy using a nuke, the whole mutually assured destruction thing we have going on. Iran might be a religious country, but I somehow doubt that they are gonna risk 70+ million citizens on an attack that MIGHT negatively affect half a city.

  8. the tinny wurlitzer

    This article also describes a hoary chestnut of US foreign interference: foment political instability, then use the resulting crackdown to demonize the enemy state. This shows how NCS bullshit gets dripped into public discourse. What’s the story behind the authorship and sourcing of this article? The covert cowards used to use Paraguayan Church Bulletins to seed the media with fake facts. Now they can use blogs.

  9. Kenneth Alonso

    Desalinization plants along the “Arabian Gulf” provide potable water for the population of the Arab states. Their destruction by Iran in a counterattack would wreak far more havoc on the population (and less damage to the ecosystem) than would an attack with NBC weapons. It would likely destabilize Arab governments as there is no scenario in which adequate potable water could be supplied to the non-military population to avoid a massive number of deaths in the first few days of an Iranian response to an attack on Iran.

  10. issacread

    the religious leadership in Iran today remain fearful of what a popular vote and truly impartial and unhindered elections could do to its grip on power. With popular elections around the world at the forefront of so called asymmetrical warfare this sounds a bit facetious to me. Indeed where in the world do truly impartial and unhindered elections exist anymore? And the methods of subversion just keep growing along with the pretenses of democracy. Bummer.

  11. Slim


    Don’t worry about the movie – Warner already has one in development…

    Foreword by Newt Gingritch. I read it. Yes, I was drinking heavily at the time. It was okay, but loaded with gut-wreching rightwing fantasy. They should have brought in John Milius (the inspiration for Walter in Big Lewbowski) to write the script, and made this one instead of remaking Red Dawn. Oh well, the right never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    I think the banksters will get us long before Iran gets around to it.

    1. Kraken

      Greenwald’s got it right. It’s the US who’s directing cyber-warfare at Iran. It’s known as full spectrum dominance. This author’s been drinking his bathwater.

    1. Susan the other

      Interesting that this was unreported elsewhere. And curious that Oil Price ran such a blatant CIA piece about emp asymetrical warfare. Early this morning the BBC was reporting on Syria, that things were dire, implying that Syria is almost gone as a nation. I’m wondering what will happen to Assad. When the time comes, soon, there will be no need for conventional war in Iran. It will be overthrown like Syria. We never hear about the internal dissent in Iran, just like we never heard much about it in Egypt, Syria, Libya or even Iraq. and Iran has no more allies. We got rid of all of them – even Russia it seems. Now Afghanistan has been made a full member of NATO and I assume that means we gave them nukes. I think it’s pretty much over for Iran already.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        Wondering to what extent the sense of urgency among the hawks in both countries (Neither of them being Iran) is being driven by Hagel’s prospective appointment?

  12. James O'Keefe

    NBC’s Revolution tv series postulates the world (or at least the US) after an EMP attack, so it has been portrayed in recent US films/tv. Based on this TV Tropes page it has been used in films, tv and books.

    I don’t know how vulnerable the US military is to EMP weapons, though this site might have some insights. Of course it could be a front for Heritage which has been making an issue of it.

    Of course, Iran would need to get the nuke (if they even have one or are likely to have one, I have my doubts) and then would need to get it over the US or Europe. Their missiles won’t get to the US, but Europe is a possibility, I suppose. Certainly could do it over Saudi Arabia, but then they might get hit as well. Of course if they did use an EMP weapon, then the US could retaliate, though that runs the risk of hitting other countries which wouldn’t go over well.

    In terms of a Chinese or Russian EMP attack, though neither is likely, much of the US’ nuclear strike capability are on subs away from the US and under the water, so provided a message could get to them, the US likely has plans to return the favor.

  13. jsmith

    So, leaving aside the fascist aggression of the last 20 years on the part of the West in the ME and N. Africa and Israel’s incursion into Lebanese airspace last night to chase down chemical weapons or something – maybe they were looking for pregnant Ethiopian Jews that had escaped – I’m supposed to actually take the time and consider the scary scary boogeyman of Iran and how there’s a repressive regime over there all the while knowing that this very post is being fed into a fusion center so that my identity can be established for the overlords of THIS police-state nonpareil?


    1. Ms G

      @BB thank you.

      If this Claude Sahani person is the author, why does it say under the title here at NC that the article is”by James Stafford”?

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        I’m a little puzzled myself, but I imagine -since Yves made a forward- that it’s more of a detail than anything significant. James Stafford is the editor and may be the one who made or offered or authorized the cross link.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        The one I’m curious about is Salhani. It would take quite a while to read all his posts, and just the title of this article says enough, but if someone knew about him, a comment would be helpful.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Perhaps Mr. Stafford, you and/or Mr. Sahani could clear up some of the confusion expressed in the comments here as to where you come up with Iran’s offensive posture regarding EMC or cyberwarfare by comparison to the offensive posture of the US in the same fields against Iran?

            What proof do you have that EMC is a credible threat at all (see Steve above), a credible threat in the hands of the Iranians, and what sources do you use to argue that Iran has raised the technology to the level of going on the offensive?

            Do you have proof that the Iranians used cyberwarfare? Or, are you simply assuming that since the US definitely used cyberwarfare against Iran, See Stuxnet, it might look good to suggest that Iran might one day defend itself and return the favor itself become the aggressor?

          2. Ms G

            Mr. Stafford, I have the same questions as Brooklin Bridge. A response from you or your author would be most welcome.

        1. Ms G

          According to the biographical information given on Mr. Salhani’s website he is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London,, and a similar institute in D.C.

          All of his affiliations with specific news organizations appear to have occured in the past.

          The website is a strange product in itself — sort of a hasty slapdash thingy that looks quite unprofessional.

  14. Aussie F

    Iran’s one of the least aggressive states in the region. Compared to Israel it’s a beacon of respect for international law. Remember, Iran’s parliamentary democracy was otherthrown by a Anglo American coup against Mossadegh in 1953. the ‘Shah’ took up power with US and Western support and his regime survived through using systematic repression and torture against the population. Since the otherthrow of the Shah the US has engaged in subversion, terrorism and a proxy war against Iran via Saddam Hussein. The US is currently engaged in a financial war, a cyber war, and the selective assasination of Iranian scientists.

    1. ebear

      “Iran’s one of the least aggressive states in the region. Compared to Israel it’s a beacon of respect for international law.”

      I have a simple formula for deciding which nations I favor and which I dislike. I simply imagine myself as a woman living there, and the things I’d have to put up with. By that rubric, Israel wins hands down over any of its neighbors.

      Jews having the means to defend themselves against those who would “drive them into the sea” – what a concept! And in violation of international law, no less! Why of all the nerve!

      1. Aussie F

        It’s certainly a simple formula. Simply ignore the institutional racism, the war crimes, the constant aggression, the breaches of international law, the suffering of the victims and other critical components of reality.

        Of course, these horrors are perpetrated because of the danger posed by impoverished children languishing in refugee camps. Their desire for a modicum of justice and dignity is conflated with a desire to push Isrealis ‘into the sea.’

        1. ebear

          It is a simple formula, and it works. Frankly, you should expect nothing less from a nation founded on the principle of Never Again. As for those refugees you mentioned, are they under Israeli jurisdiction? No they’re not. So why don’t their host countries allow them free movement and the right to emigrate? They’re the one’s that created the problem, or did you forget your history?

          As for institutional racism, well dearie me, coming from an Aussie that just pushed the irony meter right off the scale.

    2. Roland

      Iran has not started a war against any of its neighbours.

      Iran has been invaded three times during the past century.

      Given its position beside Russia, Turkey, and Pakistan–all of which have larger and more formidable armies, Iran’s military arrangements are relatively modest. That’s to say nothing of the extremely potent forces of NATO and the USA which are ever more frequently deployed to the region.

      Moreover, most of Iran’s weaponry is old. The Saudis all by themselves enjoy a clear-cut superiority over the Iranians in terms of aircraft and armoured vehicles.

      The petty Gulf aristocracies might feel intimidated, but they’re more than amply protected by their allies in any case.

      Iran on the offensive? Absurd.

  15. pws

    America is on the offensive, Iran is on the defensive.

    If you pretend that America isn’t on the offensive, I suppose that could look like Iran was on the offensive.

    “Those French are fighting the Third Reich’s German troops, France is on the offensive!”

    Truthfully, this just confirms we are in a Cold War with Iran, much as outlandish stories about what the Russians were up to justified things like American support for the South African Apartheid government during the original Cold War.

    By the way, Iran is not just going to collapse when we invade, like Iraq. People are living in a fantasy world if they think Iran resembles Iraq in any way:

    “Everybody’s asking me what’ll happen if we attack Iran. To get a quick preview, just do what this guy in my eighth-grade class did: put a firecracker in your mouth, hold it between your front teeth, and light the fuse.” —

    If you’d like a sort of preview, try reading up on the Iran-Iraq war, it will help you get a sense of the differences between the two countries.

    1. LucyLulu

      “By the way, Iran is not just going to collapse when we invade, like Iraq. People are living in a fantasy world if they think Iran resembles Iraq in any way:”

      I couldn’t agree more. Totally different geography, totally different culture. Iran would be far more formidable.

      I pray we don’t invade Iran. They’re all bark and no bite with the threats against Israel, though they may well be developing nukes. Who would blame them for wanting to level the playing field against the two aggressor-nations in the region? And I doubt Netanyahu is crazy enough to strike Iran unless they have the U.S to back them up, or that his generals will go along with the plan. Unless Israel plans to start dropping nukes, they’d be overmatched. And who would provide the ground troops?

      We don’t need to generate any more hostility. We’re going to have our hands full the next few years as it is. With the instability throughout N. Africa, lingering problems in Pakistan, and maybe N. Korea, Iran will be the least of our problems. It’s time for both the US and Israel to start inviting the neighbors over for dinner.

    1. ohmyheck

      Ok, “Stuxnet”. ;-)

      Thank you Steve and Antagonist for scientifically debunking the EMP theory. Gotta love us some facts here.

      That is not to say I don’t love CT, because I find CT’s fascinating, but this particular CT from Cryptonomicon jumps the shark, even for me.

  16. Brooklin Bridge

    Based on an admittedly cursory glance at results returned from a query on,, Claude Salhani, the author of this article (not the editor), appears to engage in a considerable amount of fear mongering vis-à-vis Iran. He is an editor of the Middle East Times, he writes for or contributes to the United Press International.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I’ll amend the above comment to say instead that it is difficult to get much of an idea where Salhani stands based on a cursory “grep” of his name or origin on Let others judge for themselves.

      The title of this article however, Iran On The Offensive, does indeed suggest a slant.

  17. EmilianoZ

    Should I keep my laptop away from the kitchen? I mean, those fridge magnets, can they damage a laptop?

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      On the off chance that this is not just snark, no, the little magnets on the fridge won’t harm your computer unless you were to get them right next to your hard drive or parts of the mother-board. But to be safe, keep small magnets at least a few inches and big ones a few feet or more from any digital devices.

      1. EmilianoZ

        Thanks for the reply. I was genuinely curious. I would have thought that those tiny ordinary magnets were totally harmless. I was wrong.

        But why a magnetic field? Would an electric field be harmless?

        1. Vernon

          A computer hard drive uses magnetic fields to write data. So in theory, it is possible, with very strong rare earth magnets, to damage a hard drive. If your computer has an SSD (Solid State Drive), then it is not susceptible to magnets like a hard drive. Since SSDs have no moving parts, they are also less susceptible to damage from drops which make them ideal for laptops. In short, you should have nothing to worry about operating your laptop anywhere in your house. It would probably be better if NC stayed away from technical and scientific issues where there appears to be limited expertise.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            @Vernon, you might yourself want to avoid confusing NC with those who make comments in the NC comment sections. You are correct that it is difficult to damage your hard drive with ordinary magnets but with a good deal of effort it can be done, so none of the advice given will hurt under the simple rule of, better safe than sorry.

            Some of the older hard drives are indeed vulnerable to strong magnets, such as magnets to pick up roofing nails, and if you were to open them up and apply directly to the metalic film, even to small magnets used to stick paper to refrigerators, so you may want to review your own assumptions.

          2. Vernon

            @Brooklin Bridge
            From Yves post: “Anyone who has read Cryptonomicon, or merely has gotten a magnet too close to a computer is familiar with the concept: magnetic fields fry chips.” Please explain what magnet can “fry chips”

          3. Brooklin Bridge

            From FAQ on SUPERMAGETE

            “A strong magnetic field, however, can damage mechanical components of the hard drive. A magnet can, for instance,

            * block the motor of the reading head
            * influence the position of the writing head or
            * damage the writing head

            All the above may lead to irreparable damages.”

            The article goes on to say that desktops are pretty safe but laptops less so due to the hard drive being on the bottom and thus potentially close to some strong magnetic field. Still, they talk about 20cm or a little under 8 inches as a safety zone for strong magnets. It’s probably safe to say that the fridge magnet won’t cause harm, but I wouldn’t put my lap-top on top of one or more of them anyway and certainly not for any length of time.

          4. Vernon

            @Brooklin Bridge:
            I apologize for not being more clear in my last post. Yves stated in her post “Anyone who has read Cryptonomicon, or merely has gotten a magnet too close to a computer is familiar with the concept: magnetic fields fry chips”. Chips are Integrated Circuits not mechanical hard drive components. Please explain what magnet can fry a chip (Integrated Circuit).

          5. Brooklin Bridge

            “Anyone who has read Cryptonomicon, or merely has gotten a magnet too close to a computer is familiar with the concept: magnetic fields fry chips.”

            Touchée, @Vernon. I will have to let Yves explain that one. I’m not sure she was being serious, but you have no need to apologize and I should have looked before responding.

          6. Yves Smith Post author

            The UK government recommends not getting passports with RFID chips near magnets. The disruption of the current can damage stored data. This is apparently true independent of the mechanical part of a traditional HD damaging the disk if it powers off abruptly.

            I also happen to have some strong magnets in my house, MUCH stronger than the normal fridge variety. No idea how much of a hazard they pose to my equipment but I am not about to find out.

          7. Vernon

            You state “The UK government recommends not getting passports with RFID chips near magnets. The disruption of the current can damage stored data.”

            Do you have a link to this information? I could not find one.

            Also, with passive RFID tags, which I believe are in UK passports, there is no current to disrupt. In other words, the RFID chip is a passive device with no power supply. There is no current flow until an RFID comes in proximity with an RFID reader which powers the RFID device. Magnets are unable power an RFID device. You need an electro-magnet or radio type transmitter, something that can generate RF (Radio Frequency), to power a passive RFID device.

            Since data is not usually stored magnetically on RFID tags or chips (Integrated Circuits), it is not clear to me why you think that magnets can damage RFID tags and chips. Please explain your theory.

            Best wishes

          8. skippy

            Magnetic recording

            See also: Magnetic storage

            An HDD records data by magnetizing a thin film of ferromagnetic material on a disk. Sequential changes in the direction of magnetization represent binary data bits. The data is read from the disk by detecting the transitions in magnetization. User data is encoded using an encoding scheme, such as run-length limited encoding,[11] which determines how the data is represented by the magnetic transitions.


            Skip here.. as you can see with HDDs it corrupts the binary transfer even without damaging the mechanical components, this requires a less powerful magnetic field imo.

            SSD flash memory uses floating gate transistors to store data, rather than the magnetic method used by hard disks. The presence of a magnetic field is not necessarily a problem for an SSD, but the rate of change of magnetic flux could cause damage:

            CFs [Compact Flash drives] aren’t magnetic media, so they can’t be erased like, say, a floppy disk or a hard drive. However, depending on the strength of the magnetic field, a CF isn’t completely safe. For instance, if you were to do an MRI of your CF (or any other piece of sensitive electronic circuitry, for that matter), it would be toast. It’s not simply the strength of the magnetic field that matters, so much as the rate at which the field changes. If you go from strong field to no field very quickly or vice versa, then the change in magnetic flux can generate small voltages over wires, traces, etc. If the voltages are high enough, then they can cause damage. I don’t know, practically, in the real world, what sources of magnetic fields might pose a danger to a CF — or a camera — or a lens.

            Skippy… Our decamped elevator repair man could regal us in story’s about about the seemingly crazy shite magnetic fields can do in the real world vs, the lab…. snicker…

            Barkhausen’s criterion is a necessary condition for oscillation but not a sufficient condition: some circuits satisfy the criterion but do not oscillate. Similarly, the Nyquist stability criterion also indicates instability but is silent about oscillation. Apparently there is not a compact formulation of an oscillation criterion that is both necessary and sufficient.[1]

            Barkhausen’s original “formula for self-excitation”, intended for determining the oscillation frequencies of the feedback loop, involved an equality sign: |βA| = 1. At the time conditionally-stable nonlinear systems were poorly understood; it was widely believed that this gave the boundary between stability (|βA| < 1) and instability (|βA| ≥ 1), and this erroneous version found its way into the literature.[2]

            ***However, stable oscillations only occur at frequencies for which equality holds.****

            PS. Mesoscale and Nanoscale Physics Quantum optical interface for gate-controlled spintronic devices see:

            Spintronics (a portmanteau meaning "spin transport electronics"[1][2][3]), also known as magnetoelectronics, is an emerging technology exploiting both the intrinsic spin of the electron and its associated magnetic moment, in addition to its fundamental electronic charge, in solid-state devices.

            In 2012, IBM scientists mapped the creation of persistent spin helices of synchronized electrons that persisted for more than a nanosecond. This is a 30-fold increase from the previously observed results and is longer than the duration of a modern processor clock cycle, which opens new paths to investigate for using electron spins for information processing.[10]


          9. Vernon

            The key part of your post is follows: “It’s not simply the strength of the magnetic field that matters, so much as the rate at which the field changes. If you go from strong field to no field very quickly or vice versa, then the change in magnetic flux can generate small voltages over wires, traces, etc.”

            Note that a magnet, for all intents and purposes, is a steady state, not a variable magnetic field. Please explain whether it is humanly possible to move a magnet fast enough or move a device past a magnet fast enough to generate enough voltage to damage chips (Integrated Circuits) or RFID tags.

            Note that by simply moving a device close to a magnet, virtually no voltage will be induced into the device. So, it is not clear to me why Yves and perhaps you think that moving chips (Integrated Circuits) and RFID tags close to magnets will damage them.

          10. skippy

            Your brain is an organic SSD… sort of.


            Skippy… even before you consider magnetic fields you have to consider – all the – potential – present in the devise and the components its constructed of, then you have to realized its operating in the real world (dynamic environment) and not some lab being benched and even if its not destroyed… it can be corrupted.

            Buttle… Tuttle… Thingy

          11. Vernon


            You state “Your brain is an organic SSD… sort of.

            Again, you appear to be confusing the effects of varying electro-magnetic fields which were used in the experiments in your link and the effect of the steady state magnetic field of a magnet.

            So, it is still not clear to me why Yves and perhaps you think that moving chips (Integrated Circuits) and RFID tags close to magnets will damage them.

          12. skippy

            Are you just obsessive ie fridge magnets can not influence?

            The point – is – that magnetic fields influence all electronics and even low powered fields – over time – can have a negative effect.

            skippy… its not a theory either… shezz

          13. Vernon


            You state: “The point – is – that magnetic fields influence all electronics and even low powered fields – over time – can have a negative effect”

            To be clear, you need to define what you mean by magnetic fields (varying or steady state? If varying, at what frequency?) and what is generating them. If by the above, you mean that placing chips (Integrated Circuits) or RFIDs into varying magnetic fields such as a microwave oven or an MRI can damage them, I agree. But that is not what Yves and apparently you were originally claiming and is not the point of my posts. Yves and apparently you originally claimed that chips (Integrated Circuits) and RFID tags can be damaged by moving them close to a magnet. Please explain your theory how moving chips (Integrated Circuits) and RFID tags close to a magnet can damage them over time.

          14. skippy

            Take your pick of the devises exampled, now place a low powered magnet right on top, attach a blasting cap and then place it next to your heart.

            Skippy… go for walkies for the rest of your life… oh and sample size does count, so any living thing that is dear to you… must have one too. Night… night

          15. Vernon


            You state: “Take your pick of the devises exampled, now place a low powered magnet right on top, attach a blasting cap and then place it next to your heart.”

            Yves and apparently you originally claimed that chips (Integrated Circuits) and RFID tags can be damaged by moving them close to a magnet. There is no mention of blasting caps or explosive devices in this claim. The implication of this claim is that by simply moving a chip (Integrated Cirucuit) or RFID tag close to a magnet, it can be damaged. Please explain your theory how simply moving chips (Integrated Circuits) and RFID tags close to a magnet can damage them over time without invoking explosives, hammers or other such externalities.

  18. the mighty kazoo

    Claude Sahani. A journalist. Unh hunh. Superflimsy credentials like that always crack up the foreign counterparts. An author! Potomac Books in Dulles, Virginia, with a distinguished heritage that goes all the way back to, uh, let’s see… our last bullshit war on terror! Nice touch, stiffing their authors, that obscures the flood of government propaganda funding very nicely.

    I smell hasbara dingleberries.

  19. Ms G

    Any article on the aggression and the Middle East, particularly concerning Iran, that fails to discuss the 1952-1953 overthrow of Premier Mossadeg by the US secret services (and the UK secret services) has zero credibility in my book. Though in this case the title itself was a dead giveaway of propaganda hogwash.

    For those who are not familiar with the tragedy of Mossadeg’s overthrow by the US and Britain (it just could not be tolerated that Iran could be a thriving democracy with ownership of its own oil resources, and no dependence on Western powers etc.) see here from George Washington University’s own National Security Archives section:

    1. scraping_by

      Among certain carnivores, the mother brings back weakened prey animals to her cubs. Wolves, lions, etc.

      The object is to give the cubs experience pouncing and killing, for the day that’s their mode of life.

      Perhaps, indeed, our esteemed hostess is letting us jump on a stunned herbivore. Or in this case, a menu of mainstream propaganda fear slogans.

      1. ohmyheck

        And the secondary objective is to distract the cubs long enough to get a little “mommy-time”…and maybe enjoy a little “mommy-juice”…

  20. Hugh

    This is a ridiculous article. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out recently ( ), the Pentagon is greatly expanding its cyberwarfare unit and contracting much of this expansion out to private defense and intelligence companies. To sell the American public on this gift to the MIC, there is a lot of fearmongering and ginning up of threats. This involves articles on the usual suspects, like Iran.

    In military terms, Iran has two assets: its location and its size, both geographically and in population. Iran’s conventional forces (did you notice all the meaningless recitation of numbers) are irrelevant. Tanks don’t float and the Iranian army and/or Revolutionary Guards can hardly swim across the Gulf. The lack of an effective, functioning air force means Iran’s conventional forces would largely be sitting ducks.

    Iran’s size in land and people means it would take an army of between one and two million soldiers to effectively occupy the country. It would take a lot less than this to destroy its conventional armed forces, but, as Iraq illustrated, these are not equivalent operations.

    Strategically speaking and the fairly open secret few pay attention to is that Iran does not need a nuclear weapon. Its location is its deterrent. It is Iran’s ability to threaten the shipping in the Gulf and through the Straits of Hormuz with the few Chinese Silkworm missiles it possesses and more importantly with its low tech small boat forces that counts. And here it is important to point out that it is the perception, the threat, rather than its actual abilities which count. You see Iran does not have to sink every tanker in the Gulf to cause chaos in oil markets and make the Gulf unusable. It might not even have to sink any. But certainly if it were able to hit one or two, that would be sufficient for the strategic purposes of closing the Gulf.

    Iran also has some missile capabilities and again it would take only the threat of a few hits against the infrastructure of the Gulf states to achieve the deterrence it desires. Again it is the threat, not the actual doing, that achieves deterrence.

    Low tech speedboats and a few missiles just aren’t sexy enough to sell big new Pentagon programs. So enter in the EMP, cyber warfare’s first cousin. The tell here that this is all propaganda is to be found in the article’s operative paragraph:

    “The electromagnetic pulse is quite as lethal if deployed properly, something Iran already know how to do according to several sources who closely follow Iran’s progress in that field”

    Yes, it is the famous unnamed sources gambit again. And it’s a nice touch to add that these unnamed sources not only follow Iran’s progress, getting across the idea that Iran already has such an EMP program, but are following it “closely”. Tell me who beyond some spooks would be doing this or have the capacity to do it? Or more to the point, feeding some gullible/willing reporter this story to further their own particular agenda of selling some big new government program and smearing one the Establishment’s perennial bad boys (Iran) in the process?

    1. ChrisPacific

      Yes, I was going to point out the Greenwald article (which was actually in links recently). This is a page out of the same old playbook, except that instead of Iraq and WMDs it’s Iran and cyber terrorism. The goal this time? From Greenwald:

      This massive new expenditure of money is not primarily devoted to defending against cyber-aggressors. The US itself is the world’s leading cyber-aggressor. A major purpose of this expansion is to strengthen the US’s ability to destroy other nations with cyber-attacks. Indeed, even the Post report notes that a major component of this new expansion is to “conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries”.

      I’m inclined to agree with Greenwald that the USA is a far greater threat than Iran on these points.

  21. mac

    It seems to me that if one wants to neuter Iran, all tha is needed is to get and do away with the “black rag” gang.

  22. jfleni

    RE EMP: “Without going into too many technical details electromagnetic pulse works by setting off a high-frequency signal high above the earth that incapacitates an enemy’s command-and-control systems……..”

    The important “technical detail” is that EMP is only easy to do by setting off a small or large nuke high in the atmosphere! Other methods just won’t reach very far. The propaganda artists are so dumb that they are over-reaching; the question is why?

  23. Jim S

    A little surprising that no one’s mentioned this, but the US is particularly vulnerable due to the age of our power infrastructure and apathy towards addressing it. I would guess that Israel, SA, UAE, &etc. are better off than we are in that regard. Modern military hardware is nominally hardened against EMP as well. An EMP strike against a reasonably prepared nation would be catastrophic but still recoverable from, as I understand it.

    As Steve points out above, a man-made EMP strike is only as likely as a nuclear strike. The other potential source is the sun. Of course the Dec. 2012 “Killshot” was a no-show, but the danger is present and not really predictable given our current level of understanding of how the sun works.

    Tangent: If you’ve been keeping track, the current solar cycle is the weakest in 50 years, according to NASA, leading some to speculate that we are on the verge of another Maunder Minimum. Whole lotta interesting things going on in our solar system, not just here on Earth.

    P.S. I was terribly disappointed with Stephenson’s Anathem and hesitate to pick up his latest stuff. Any reviews to change my mind? William Gibson is still kicking, though, and only gets better in my opinion.

    1. rotter

      High voltage Vaccum tube technology was basically immune to EMP.Its these fragile semi conductor chips that are easily destroyed by them.

  24. Mike

    What a shitty article. Yves, what part of it did you find compelling? EMPs…seriously? And Hollywood is too chickenshit to do anything about it? What does that even mean? There was a fucking EMP in one of the Ocean’s 11 movies. Don Cheadle actually set the thing off (I think), something Iran will never do.


  25. rotter

    Rare Earth metals are needed to produce almost all electronic devices, from motors to semi conductor chips, transformers etc..whithout them we do not use electronics – not medical devices, phones, computers,no electronics at all. The fact that we get all them from China should be alarming, but no more alarming than the fact that we have handed over our ability to actually produce any of these things we find so imporatant. Our economic “finacialization” is what did that, not China, or at least they couldnt have done it without the TOTAL collusion of finance capital and thier political servants. As a matter of fact i have wondered if Chinas “stranglehold” on these metals isnt safer than a Wal Street speculator “strangle hold” on them. I consider China to be safer and more benign gernerally than Western financial speculators. An interesting factoid :vacuum tube technology is essentially immune to EMP phenomena..vacuum tube guidance systems, B-52 groundspeed radar computers, radar sites, etc., are considered “hardened” for this reason, and its why EMP was not as much of a threat during the cold war. A Thermonuclear air burst or two would have produced EMP pulses massive and poweful enough to shut down a whole un-hardened US eastern seaboard,for instance.Also, semi conductor technology can only be “hardened” only to the extent that it can be isolated and insulated from electromagnetism, a costly and less than wholly effective projet.

  26. Paul Tioxon

    Here, knock yrselves out:

    Above link for 2008 post 9/11 threat assessment. EMPs do not fry electronics, they stop them from working at all. No frying involved. Vacuum tubes are not as affected. Human beings are well shielded central nervous systems, also not affected. Cold War paranoia used to ponder more recent generations of Soviet MIGS replacing avionics with vacuum tubes. The idea was that high energy directed weapons would include EMP devices that would knock out avionics systems and the jets run with them.

    More recent High Energy Directed Weapons include lasers, microwaves and other stuff that sounds like 21st century sci-fi. Oh wait, we ARE in the 21st century.

    Following is an independent link, again knock yrselves out:

    1. rotter

      perhaps”frying” is an overly dramatic image, but EMP do damage tiny semi conductor circuits, or else we would just unplug our ICBM then plug it back in and not worry about it. Its not anything magic, electromagnetic pulse enconters electrically conductive material and electrons flow.Elctrons encounter a resistance and a voltage and a current are produced. If the current and or voltage are sufficiently more powerful than the device can accomodate it “fries”..micro chips use micro voltages and micro current, it dosent take much. Vacuum tube circuits operate at 100’s of volts and in terms of 1/2 to 3 or 4 whole amps, they wouldnt be affect by surge of 100 volts or so, or 400 or 500 miliamps. Thats all. There is some “frying” but its microscopic.

  27. Claudius

    What contemptible nonsense (the article, not the science). As many have pointed out, there are has been abundant and recent references on the internet to an “Iran EMP, development….”, “North Korea EMP, development….” “China EMP, development…” Hell, even a “Venezuela EMP development….” all within the last 12 months. So, someone or something is pushing an agenda – very much along the lines of Iraq and WMDs.

    However, the only substantial evidence of any working EMP offensive device I have seen evidence of is of the US’s own Boeing’s ‘CHAMP’ development and demonstration (

    Really, Yves this is getting into the realm of conspiracy theory and propaganda – which, places NC in the invidious position of being perceived as either supporting the US’s own offensive EMP developments (as a countermeasure) or setting the expectation that Iranian militants will set-off and EMP device in Wall St., or is underpinning a potential false flag, US operation in ….Wall St.

    See where this is going now? Every Rothschild-Conspiracy-Israel-New-World-Order-Vaccination-Bilderberg nuts will start using this site to develop their own “Iranian-Fluoridated-EMP device set to send Wall St. back to a reduced cavity Stone Age; go long wode and bear skin” theories.

    What on earth possessed you to link this Iran-China-Afghanistan-Rare-Element-Non-Lethal-EMP-Warfare meme is beyond me. Let’s stick to the general proposition that capitalism has no clothes, so that anyone who takes this site, and its contributors, seriously can keep their terms of reference aligned with reasoned argument, rather than delusional supposition.

  28. dilbert dogbert

    Don’t know if any of the other commenters mentioned it but after reading about how much equipment Iran has my first thought was “WOW! A Target Rich Envionment!” You can hide them but when you try to move them they get uncovered and vulerable to all the nasty stuff we have developed over the years.
    How does the size of the Iranian armed forces stack up agains the Egyptians? They may have a lot of folks in the services for the same reason – to keep a large and unemployed population of young men occupied.
    EMP is so old it has a beard 10 feet long. We have been hardening our equipment against it for decades.

  29. Laughing_Fascist

    Iran and Israel got on famously until the Islamic Revolution in ’79 when Khomeini overthrew the Shah. Yes the Shah was in the U.S. camp but its 2013 and the situation is not so black and white that people should argue that Israel has no legitimate concerns about Iran. From Wikipedia:

    “During Ayatollah Khomeini’s campaign to overthrow Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Israel, which had relatively warm relations with the Shah, became an issue. Khomeini declared Israel an “enemy of Islam” and ‘The Little Satan'[12] – the United States was called ‘The Great Satan’.

    On 15 August 2012, during a meeting with veterans of the Iran-Iraq War, Ayatollah Khamenei said that he was confident that “the fake Zionist (regime) will disappear from the landscape of geography.” In addition, on 19 August, Khamenei reiterated comments made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which members of the international community, including the United States, France, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemened, during which he called Israel a “cancerous tumor in the heart of the Islamic world” and said that its existence is responsible for many problems facing the Muslim world.”

    LF here: granted that the comments could be mere food for the regime’s carefully cultivated xenophobia for the masses. But the missile tests, nuclear program and full on military support for hezbollah (along with Iran’s other military capacities discussed elsewhere) would incline any competent leader in Isreal to view the regime with extreme suspicion.

    Would be nice if there could be a sit-down (Obama thought so) but at the moment its not possible.

    OK so this is where someone says “PALESTINIANS!” Cause we only need to focus on one aspect of a nations policy and bootstrap that as a justification for invalidating all of the nation’s other policies.

    1. Shootin blanks cuz DU

      Strictly speaking, this is where someone says, “If you you’re so shit-scared of them, sit down and negotiate the Middle east nuclear-free zone. And no more concentration camp supplies until you do.”

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