National security experts have expressed alarm over the announcement by Iran that it will position its warships off the coast of the United States, from where they could launch a nuclear warhead to explode at high altitude to create an electromagnetic pulse. That could knock the American electrical grid out of commission, disrupting supplies of energy, food, communications, fuel and more for a long period. These experts agree that there would be no warning and that the U.S. missile defense system would not be able to respond in time to prevent the high altitude nuclear explosion. They also believe that if such a missile were launched, it would not be from an Iranian warship but from a commercial vessel sailing along the East Coast or in the Gulf of Mexico. “It shows they could put a weapon on a boat or freighter, and if Iran has ballistic missiles it could put it anywhere on the U.S. coast,” said John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and currently a senior fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute. Last month, the Iranian Fars News Agency announced that the fleet would undertake a three-month mission and would consist of a destroyer and a helicopter-carrying vessel.
While the Iranian deployment may consist of two vessels, the commander of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet, Adm.l Afshin Rezayee Haddad, said that Iran would send a “fleet” to the Atlantic Ocean. These ships undoubtedly would be under constant U.S. Navy observation while trolling along the U.S. East Coast and possibly in the Gulf of Mexico. The ships could use Venezuela as station to refuel and resupply, or could return to Iran. Iran’s decision to place its warships off the U.S. East Coast was prompted by the U.S. decision to place warships of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet at Bahrain, not far from Iran. And there are U.S. carrier task forces constantly patrolling through the Strait of Hormuz, which skirts Iranian territory. This deployment to the U.S. East Coast would be the first time Iran has stationed ships outside the Persian Gulf. For the past three years, it has been sending its warships through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean to show its capabilities. More