In the wake of the announcement of the nuclear deal with Iran, in which the Shiite Islamic state is allowed to continue its nuclear program, the Iranian regime was exultant. At a military ceremony on Aug. 30, 2015, the Iranian defense minister boasted:
“Today, Iran has attained such status that the superpowers have surrendered to it, because of its majesty, its steadfastness, its resistance, and its unity. Despite their great pride, the regime of the arrogance [the West, led by the United States] sat humbly behind the negotiating table and obeyed the rights of the Iranian nation” (quoted in “Iranian Regime Celebrates Its Victory in the Nuclear Agreement,” Middle East Media Research Institute [MEMRI], Sept. 4, 2015).
Furthermore, “a top Iranian general told troops preparing for a massive military drill . . . that ‘the U.S. and the Zionists should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine’” (quoted by Paul Alster, “Iran Thumbs Nose at US Even as Obama Rallies Support for Nuke Deal,” Fox News, Sept. 3, 2015).
Meanwhile, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that “the Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki” (“Restoring American Exceptionalism,” Aug. 28, 2015).
It’s certainly horrific to imagine Iran or some other power or group using atomic weapons on the tiny Jewish state of Israel or on America on the other side of the world. But it might end up far worse than we imagine.
Worse than nuking a city?
A commentary in The Wall Street Journal several years ago by Brian Kennedy, at the time a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, stated: “Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.
“But as terrible as that scenario sounds, there is one that is worse. Let us say the freighter ship launches a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile off the coast of the U.S. and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago. The nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
“Gamma rays from the explosion . . . generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. . . . Lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.
“This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century . . .
“Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions. Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years” (“What a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do,” Nov. 24, 2008, emphasis added throughout).
Effects of an EMP weapon detonation
The effects of an EMP detonation depend on several factors. One is altitude. The Heritage Foundation, which has long tried to draw people’s attention to the seriousness of the danger, estimates that a single EMP detonation at an altitude of 300 miles over Kansas would affect virtually the entire continental United States.
At a height of 120 miles, an EMP burst would affect most of the continental United States except for the coastal states. At a 30-mile altitude, it would devastate eight to 10 states (see the graphic at right).
Other key factors are how powerful the weapon is and distance. The more powerful the weapon, the greater the electromagnetic surge and thus the greater the damage. And the closer the detonation to electrical devices, the greater the power of the electromagnetic pulse.
Missile-defense experts warn that a relatively cheap way to inflict terminal damage on a nation as large the United States would be to detonate three or four medium-yield EMP weapons evenly spaced at a suitable altitude above the country—a capability likely within reach of Iran and other players like North Korea within a relatively short time.
Experts warn of the likelihood that many electrical devices within line of sight of the detonation of an EMP weapon, unless specifically shielded, would be rendered immediately inoperable. This includes electrical components of motor vehicles, trains, aircraft, ships, computers, TVs, radios, phones, appliances, lights, pumps, generators, medical equipment, power tools and the like.
While many devices could be left undamaged, the cumulative impact of many interdependent devices failing over huge regions would be catastrophic. The result would be unimaginable chaos and vast loss of life.
Iran’s intention to stage an EMP attack
Former CIA director James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Commission, have been outspoken about the EMP threat. Woolsey relates in a Washington Times article: “The Congressional EMP Commission estimated a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill anywhere from two of every three Americans by a low estimate up to nine of 10 Americans by starvation and social disruption.” This is astoundingly serious and sobering!
Woolsey goes on to say that “‘Death to America’ is more than merely an Iranian chant—Tehran’s military is planning to be able to make a nuclear EMP attack . . . An Iranian military textbook, recently translated by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s National Intelligence University . . . , ironically titled ‘Passive Defense’ (2010), describes nuclear EMP effects in detail. It advocates in more than 20 passages an EMP attack to defeat decisively an adversary.
“The official Iranian military textbook advocates a revolutionary new way of warfare that combines coordinated attacks by nuclear and non-nuclear EMP weapons, physical and cyber-attacks against electric grids to black out and collapse entire nations . . . Because EMP destroys electronics directly, but people indirectly, it is regarded by some as Shariah [Islamic law]-compliant use of a nuclear weapon [for mass killing].
“‘Passive Defense’ and other Iranian military writings are well aware that nuclear EMP attack is the most efficient way of killing people, through secondary effects, over the long run. The rationale appears to be that people starve to death, not because of EMP, but because they live in materialistic societies dependent upon modern technology” (“A Shariah-Approved Nuclear Attack,” Aug. 19, 2015, emphasis added throughout).
For example, Woolsey quotes a 1998 Iranian article on EMP attack that stated: “If the world’s industrial countries fail to devise effective ways to defend themselves against dangerous electronic assaults, then they will disintegrate within a few years . . . American soldiers would not be able to find food to eat nor would they be able to fire a single shot.”
Obviously, as Woolsey points out, “The Iranians have done more than just think about EMP attack.”
In fact, “the Congressional EMP Commission found that Iran has practiced launching missiles and fusing warheads for high-altitude EMP attack, including off a freighter. Iran has apparently practiced surprise EMP attacks, orbiting satellites on south polar trajectories to evade U.S. radars and missile defenses, at altitudes consistent with generating an EMP field covering all 48 contiguous United States. Iran launched its fourth satellite on such a trajectory as recently as February 2015. A single nuclear weapon would complete the list of requirements” (ibid.).
Dr. Pry warned in an op-ed at Israel National News earlier this year: “For the first time in history, a failed state like Iran could destroy the most successful societies on Earth . . . An Iran with nuclear missiles can topple the existing world order . . . without firing a shot . . .
“The mere capability to make an EMP attack, the mere threat that a rogue state like Iran can inflict Assured Destruction on the United States using a single warhead, cancels the credibility of U.S. security guarantees . . . Iran with nuclear missiles is a world crisis comparable to the Islamic conquests against Christendom during the Dark Ages, the rise of Nazi Germany, or the Soviet threat during the Cold War.” ("Nuclear Iran: A World Crisis," March 18, 2015).
In the Iran nuclear agreement, the subject of Iran’s program to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles wasn’t even addressed. Iran already has missiles capable of striking any nearby enemy in the Middle East or as far as southeastern Europe. An obvious question is why they feel a need to develop missiles which can carry warheads to other continents—unless the intended target is the United States, which they repeatedly characterize as “the great Satan”?
Iran, North Korea and the merchants of death
Yet the problem is not just Iran. More Middle Eastern states now want to develop nuclear weapons as a counterweight to Iran—and some of these states could fall to Islamic extremists and terror groups. And Muslim Pakistan, with its own arsenal of dozens of nuclear warheads, is a tempting takeover target for Islamic fundamentalists both within the country and in neighboring Afghanistan.
Dr. Pry and Woolsey pointed out in a Wall Street Journal piece last year: “In 2004, the EMP Commission met with senior Russian military personnel who warned that Russian scientists had been recruited by North Korea to help develop its nuclear arsenal as well as EMP-attack capabilities. In December 2012, the North Koreans successfully orbited a satellite, the KSM-3, compatible with the size and weight of a small nuclear warhead. The trajectory of the KSM-3 had the characteristics for delivery of a surprise nuclear EMP attack against the U.S.” (“The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack,” Aug. 12, 2014).
Dr. Pry sternly points the finger in his Israel National News piece at the larger powers bearing responsibility: “World chaos from nuclear missile-armed Iran and its partner North Korea is enabled deliberately by their silent partners—Russia and China. In order to survive, the West must wake-up to the reality that Iran, North Korea, China and Russia are all rogue states tacitly allied against the West, working together to topple the existing world order . . .
“Russia and China have deliberately proliferated missile and nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea to raise proxy nuclear missile threats against the U.S. and its allies on the theory that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ and to promote world chaos. The real merchants of death live in Moscow and Beijing.”
He goes on to quote Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “The history of the failure of war can almost be summed up in two words: too late. Too late in comprehending the deadly purposes of a potential enemy. Too late in realizing the mortal danger. Too late in preparedness. Too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance. Too late in standing with one’s friends.”
Pry then reiterates: “The West must understand that Russia and China are not our friends and do not share our vision for a stable, peaceful world order. They are enabling the Iranian and North Korean nuclear missile programs to foster world chaos and, if necessary, our extinction.”
And amazingly, unthinkably, the United States government and other Western allies are enabling this as well.
What Scripture reveals
We would do well to keep in mind some important details from Bible prophecy when considering the dire threat of an electromagnetic pulse attack.
First, the Bible does reveal that America and other modern nations of Israelite descent will see massive devastation in the end time (see our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy to understand this heritage). In Ezekiel 6:6 God tells the Israelites that “in all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste.”
When Ezekiel wrote this prophecy, the kingdom of Israel had already been defeated by the Assyrian Empire and taken into exile well over a century earlier, so this prophecy never applied to ancient Israel. It refers to their end-time descendants, who will be punished for their grave national sins and rebellion against their Creator.
Second, it is evident that the death toll for all of this devastation will not be as high as the 90 percent some predict for a worst-case scenario EMP attack. But it could be in line with lower estimates. The indication for the last days appears to be that one third of the Israelites will die of disease and famine. Another third will fall by the sword or military attack, and another third will be scattered in fleeing the sword of invasion (Ezekiel 5:12).
Famine from lack of food and non-functioning distribution and transportation systems along with diseases accompanying malnutrition and unsanitary conditions would be one major result of an EMP attack. The scattering and captivity of survivors that other passages mention could be a result of outside forces taking advantage of a devastated nation.
Third, while the massive destruction the Bible portrays would appear to be the result of nuclear weapons (such as a third of mankind being killed as described in Revelation 9:15), there is still an indication of working electronic communication the world over just before Christ returns.
We find this in Revelation 11, where God’s end-time two witnesses are killed in martyrdom. Verse 9 says: “And for three and a half days, all peoples, tribes, languages, and nations will stare at their bodies” (New Living Translation). This was not possible before the advent of modern electronic communications. Yet this verse shows that some such communications will be functioning at the very end immediately before Jesus Christ’s return. This would seem to mean that any EMP warfare in the last days will be limited and not shut down whole continents.
What does it mean for you?
Of course the biggest details of prophecy to keep in mind are that the devastation it records is not the end of the story. While end-time events will be truly horrifying, a wonderful world will follow Jesus Christ’s return to establish the Kingdom of God over all nations.
No longer will one nation threaten another, nor nations spend billions of dollars on such horrifying weapons. Humanity will finally learn the way to peace, not endless war.
As for you, we hope you’ll take very seriously the sobering developments we see in the headlines daily. We live in increasingly dangerous times, just as foretold by Jesus Christ and the biblical prophets. But the good news is that you can escape or endure the terrible times ahead and be part of God’s Kingdom forever—if you are willing to trust in and submit to God now!