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The discussion in the White House must turn to more aggressive ways to stop Iran.

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EMP: What Obama and Netanyahu Should Be Talking About

The discussion in the White House must turn to more aggressive ways to stop Iran.

Just as Vice President Joe Biden was landing in Tel Aviv recently, Israel’s Ministry of the Interior announced that it would build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.  Biden saw this as a snub.  Apparently, the mid-level bureaucrat who let the news out wanted to deliver Washington a poke in the eye.  Blindsided, Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu was forced to apologize profusely. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added a sharp rebuke to the Israeli government, demanding that it rescind the building order.  While Israel has temporarily suspended building in the West Bank, it considers East Jerusalem now and forever a part of its capital and it won’t rescind the order.  It was the timing, not the substance, for which Netanyahu was apologizing. 

With President Obama meeting with Netanyahu in the White House today, it is time to lay aside quarrels over housing in East Jerusalem.  There is something far more important to discuss: Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  Both the United States and Israel have very important reasons to stop Iran.  For us, it is stability in the broader Middle East. For Israel, it is its very existence.

It is time for Mr. Obama to meet reality:  He is not going to get tough sanctions out of the United Nations Security Council, and unilateral ones will not crimp Iran’s economy enough for its government to back off nuclear weapons production. 

The discussion in the White House must turn to more aggressive ways to stop Iran.  U.S. aircraft, dropping non-nuclear “blockbuster” bombs might do the job—if we knew where all of Iran’s underground facilities were.  As long as we’re not sure, the Iranians could probably expand others to restart their program.  Such an attack might a buy a little time, but that’s all.

For an Israeli attack they would need multiple aircraft and, even then, might only set back the pace of the Iranian program. 

A standard nuclear bomb seems unthinkable for both, although Israel, with its own nuclear arsenal would almost certainly use it if sufficiently threatened directly. 

A Good Alternative

There is another alternative.  It’s called EMP for “electro-magnetic pulse.”  Back in 1962, the U.S. conducted a nuclear test high over Johnston Island in the Pacific.  It had no radiation or blast effect, but knocked out electricity in Honolulu, 930 miles away.  The military said that was caused by a freak of weather.

Chet Nagle, a former naval intelligence officer and author of "Iran Covenant", says that an EMP pulse is “much like a powerful radio wave.”  It would have an impact on a conductor of electricity and could knock out transmission lines, transformers and even power-generation stations.

As Nagle put it recently:   “The easiest solution to the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons program is an EMP strike.  A nuke detonated 450 kilometers over Tehran at high noon on a sunny day would not even be noticed by the folks on the ground; however, their lights would go out and everything electrical would stop, including those enrichment centrifuges.”  He adds that, “a few aircraft could then drop commando teams in the resulting darkness, chaos and lack of communications and do whatever else needs doing.  Iran then would be living in the late 19th Century.”

Remember: no radiation; no blast effect.  A dividend could be that the “Greens,” the democratic reformers, would seize power.  If that were to happen, we and our allies could help the country recover from the EMP attack, with the nuclear enrichment facilities permanently shut down.

Now, there’s something for the Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu to discuss in earnest.

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Written By

Mr. Hannaford was closely associated with former President Reagan for a number of years. His latest book is Ronald Reagan and His Ranch: The Western White House, 1981-1989.

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