Congress will confront at least two important challenges this week: 1) President Trump's decision on the terrible Iran deal he campaigned against; and 2) Senator John McCain's leadership in determining the future of the EMP Commission as the threat from North Korea grows.
First, the president will decide the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which reportedly removed $150 billion in sanctions to Iran’s discretion in exchange for an alleged halt in its development of nuclear weapons. This deal requires U.S. certification of Iranian compliance every 90 days — this is the week of decision after having so certified twice before.
John Gizzi noted in a recent Newsmax article addressing this question that President Trump has three choices, 1) He can recertify the deal again (the third strike?), which is unlikely since he campaigned on a promise to get rid of this "worst deal ever negotiated;" 2) He can withdraw outright, satisfying his campaign promise; or 3) He can again kick the can back to Congress for 60 days to consider reinstating sanctions.
Along with 44 others, I signed on to Option 2 in a September 21, 2017, letter to President Trump, urging him to withdraw from the JCPOA “as soon as possible” and recommending former UN Ambassador John Bolton’s proposed approach to dealing with Iran. Andrew McCarthy lays out in considerable detail (again) that Iran has never been “transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing” the JCPOA.
So, it would be most satisfying to just get rid of the deal now and be done with it, but option 3) also appeals to some because the Senate gave us the terrible deal in the first place — and then not a single Republican voted for it.
The current feud between the President and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) no doubt traces its origin to the events of two years ago, as discussed by Andy McCarthy. The Republicans had the votes to kill the JCPOA in the cradle, but alas the Senate went along with the Obama gameplan.
So, President Trump might experience pleasure in watching the Republicans in Congress stew a bit in the mess they created. President Trump can flatly cancel the deal later after watching congress squirm. In any case, there is no reason to believe that Iran will change its behavior — and we need to end the JCPOA charade and deal with Iran as the threat it is, especially as an ally of North Korea.
Iran’s alliance with North Korea is also tied to a second issue to be decided this week, having to do with the future of a congressional commission that has been monitoring U.S. government and industrial activities that deal with the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat.
The principal leader in determining this outcome is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and is shepherding the National Defense Authorization Act final stages, including the Senate’s participation in the House-Senate Conference to finalize that important legislation.
The House would abandon the current commission that has served with distinction for almost 17 years and start all over with a new commission — guaranteeing delay and confusion with a break in that important role. It’s up to Senator McCain and his follow conferees to rectify this pending mistake.
The commissioners are our most knowledgeable resource for understanding the Defense Department’s efforts of the past half century to assure the viability of our strategic systems against EMP effects. They cannot be easily replaced.
Moreover, these matters were kept secret until the Commission’s 2004 and 2008 reports, and many who are responsible for our critical civil infrastructure — such as the electric power grid — are still uninformed about these potentially lethal EMP effects and the lessons learned over the past half century on how to deal with that existential threat.
The press is beginning to become aware of the EMP threat — and that’s a good thing. But alleged experts — even some well-intentioned to be sure — are not well informed, and sometimes these late-comers pontificate beyond what their advertising merits. That’s why as many of the EMP Commissioners who wish to continue their service should continue to keep the record straight.
The current EMP Commission went out of business last weekend — on September 30, ending the uncompensated service since 2001 of commissioners who have been the only authoritative voice among a chorus of naysayers that have left America vulnerable to an existential threat that, if unaddressed, could lead to the death of most Americans in months following such an event.
Such an attack might be executed by North Korea, which has declared an EMP attack to be a "strategic goal" of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Or it might be delivered by North Korea's ally Iran, which now has plenty of money to buy whatever it needs from a "cash-strapped" North Korea, thanks to the JCPOA’s removal of sanctions freeing over a $100 billion for Iran to buy what it can’t do itself from a cash-strapped North Korea.
Alternatively, a “natural” EMP event will certainly occur, we just don't know when. It will follow a mass coronal ejection (CME) — a major solar flare — that envelops the earth, like the 1859 Carrington event that caused damage to teletype systems in that era, but not catastrophic consequences for mostly rural America that then produced its own food.
Today, a similar CME would be catastrophic for our just-in-time economy servicing a hundred times as many Americans without resources of rural, agricultural America 250 years ago. In 2012, we barely missed just such an event when a CME passed through the earth's orbit only about a week after we did.
After the recent hurricanes, the public is now quite aware of the implications of losing electricity, and it can appreciate what it would mean if there were no help from others following such a loss.
So, what will Senator McCain do this week? Will he lead the Senate in deciding the future of the EMP Commission? Under his leadership, will congress replace it with a new commission? If so, will the associated legislative language assure the continuing service of all Commissioners who will agree to continue to assure continuity with the past 16 years effort? I hope the answer is yes to these questions.
Moreover, I’d argue that he should insist that the new Commission be placed in the White House with a direct unfettered reporting line to President Trump. The current federal government is dysfunctional, because no one below the president has the authority, resources, and responsibility for protecting all Americans front both manmade and natural existential EMP threats.
In conclusion, consider the following appraisal of our current situation by Former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) one of the two original main sponsors of the EMP Commission (the other was Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)). Mr. Weldon began his argument that “Washington absolutely must save the EMP Commission” with the following words:
"Only Washington bureaucrats could be so stupid they would terminate the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, also known as the Congressional EMP Commission — just when North Korea threatened to attack the United States with EMP."
Well, we stand on the threshold of just that outcome, unless Senator John McCain chooses to lead us out of this swamp. Stay tuned.
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary and Science Advisor to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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