An Electronic Embargo Could Cripple Iran

Although the United States has the weapons to make short work of the mullahs, a hot war with Iran isn’t inevitable. Iran’s continuing and very vocal support for its Shia-friendly surrogates in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank, in addition to its direct threats against the United States, could be addressed multilaterally through the United Nations.

Specifically, the United States could seek relief at the United Nations by asking for an embargo under U.N. Article 41. Embargoes are a tried-and-true tactic, but physical embargoes require considerable time and resources to deliver definitive effects. Economic sanctions have restricted Iran’s ability to import and export goods, and have done damage to the Iranian economy. 

But an electronic embargo on bytes contained within hard and cellular telephones, satellite communications, broadcast television, and most especially Iran’s internet and social media, however, could happen much more quickly and could help bring the crisis with Iran to an acceptable resolution far more rapidly.

Use the United Nations

This new electronic embargo can be manifested through a contemporary re-evaluation of the language of Article 41, whereupon the use of high technology by the United States under U.N. auspices could be far more effective than unilateral U.S. military actions.

Article 41 states:

The Security Council may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions, and it may call upon the Members of the United Nations to apply such measures. These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations. 

Emphasis added—for good reason.

With a U.N. mandate under the provisions of Article 41, the United States and other willing nations could interrupt every form of electronic communication in Iran, including civilian television and radio transmissions, even replacing their signals with broadcasts from unmanned aerial vehicles keyed to targeted Iranian audiences. Such vehicles have been available for decades.

Chuck de Caro with his TV broadcast UAV in 1991. Photo courtesy of the author.

Iran’s military would have an awfully difficult time with command and control when literally every byte of information flow has been stopped dead. The ensuing confusion could even lead to the implosion of the mullahs’ regime. This would be information warfare taken to the next level. Call it information dominance. 

A New Kind of Warfighting Unit

Here’s how it could be done. 

First, neutralize Iranian air defense command and control sites with CHAMPs: the Counterelectronic High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Program. These are cruise missiles that scoot along at low altitude and blast electronic control centers with bursts of electromagnetic pulses. These invisible EMPs knock out sensitive electronics in computers . . . Poof! Just like that. 

Next, engage broadcast TV and radio transmitter sites, usually located on hills away from populated areas with small diameter bombs

Targeted against the Klystron tubes housed in an unmanned control building adjacent to the base of the antenna, the TV signal will instantly go out. As Klystron tubes are very expensive and hard to replace, it will be a while before they can be put back into service. 

By using a combination of TV broadcasting drones and a special U.S. Air Force aircraft called Commando Solo III, it would be possible to inform the Iranian population as to the reasons for the embargo. 

Programming for such an effort might be best handled by a prototype unit of which I happen to be the progenitor. Called the 1st Joint SOFTWAR Unit (Virtual), the unit is composed of California Air and Army National Guard men and women who, in their civilian occupations, are members of the Hollywood and Silicon Valley communities. Their effectiveness, as demonstrated in tests, would be far more efficient than current conventional measures. 

De Caro (right rear) in Armani “Capitol Hill” camouflage with a detachment of the 1st JSU(V) in 2014.

The 1st JSU(V) could drive the development of operations to degrade Iran’s ability to gather, produce and disseminate information, and have a very large impact on the Iranian population. As a bonus, the unit’s ability to draw upon talent whose civilian résumés are without peer in the active-duty force could make the effort that much easier. 

Thus with prior approval of the U.N. Security Council under Article 41, and using the skills of the 1st Joint SOFTWAR Unit, it would be possible quickly and effectively to maintain an unprecedented electronic embargo in support of U.S. efforts.

This is new territory. But the reality is the United States does not need a full-blown war with Iran. We have at our disposal tools and information technology that could upend the Iranian regime, obfuscating and complicating the mullahs’ conception of reality while spurring the population—which is already unhappy with decades of oppressive laws and years of economic turmoil—to resist and perhaps even topple the regime.

Taking down a long-standing adversary of the United States, with a minimum loss of life at a relatively low cost and by remote, high-tech means would be an enormous payoff. Imagine that.

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About Chuck de Caro

Chuck de Caro is a contributor to American Greatness. He was CNN's very first Special Assignments Correspondent. Educated at Marion Military Institute and the U.S. Air Force Academy, he later served with the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He has taught information warfare (SOFTWAR) at the National Defense University and the National Intelligence University. He was an outside consultant for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment for 25 years. A pilot since he was 17, he is currently working on a book about the World War I efforts of Fiorello La Guardia, Giulio Douhet, and Gianni Caproni, which led directly to today’s U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command.

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