More Disingenuous Fear Mongering from Clarion Fund

The group behind a string of Islamophobic documentaries is at it again: With just 48days to go until the release of “Iranium,” the Clarion Fund has kicked into high gear promoting its film about Iran. One bit of the effort is a blog launched on the movie’s website. It’s a slick effort replete with text and images, and  a good place to see Clarion’s disingenuous efforts on full display.

The blog, which falls under the “news and events” tab, seems to promote news and views about Iran, with a particular focus on human rights issues inside the country. There’s also an occasional perfunctory right-wing pro-Israel talking point — with little connection to Iran — thrown in for good measure. Entries so far are few, all written by someone named “Emily.”

One post in particular caught my eye: an item warning of an Iranian ‘electro-magnetic pulse’ or EMP attack on the U.S.

This one small blog post is a shining example of what independent journalist Max Blumenthal wrote about in his latest piece for Tom Dispatch: the recent uptick in Islamophobia is not some spontaneous eruption, but the “fruit of an organized, long-term campaign by a tight confederation of right-wing activists and operatives who first focused on Islamophobia soon after the September 11th attacks, but only attained critical mass during the Obama era.”

Following up on Blumenthal’s post, Matt Duss at the Wonk Room notes a Washington Post story on Islamophobic actors giving lectures to law enforcement. One of the totally expected cast of characters is Frank Gaffney, the head of the rightist Center for Security Policy (and, as Duss notes, Obama truther, birther, and other Obama-Muslim wacky conspiracy-theorist).

Gaffney, of course, was recently named to Clarion’s advisory board.

I tried to contact “Emily” to ask her some questions, but Alex Traiman — director of “Iranium” as well as Clarion’s Associate Director and media handler — apologized that he couldn’t furnish an e-mail contact because he was “really pretty busy.”

What’s most troubling about the fear-mongering inherent in “Emily”‘s posting is the many issues it conflates, especially with regard to the author’s characterization of comments made over the weekend by Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Just before some scare-mongering about an EMP attack, Clarion blogger “Emily” sums up Mullen’s comments in the Persian Gulf region like this:

The United States announced over the weekend that it is “very ready” to counter Iran should the regime try to start a war.

Enter the “looming” threat of an Iranian EMP weapon:

But what if Iran attacks with an EMP and renders all of America’s society and infrastructure out of commission? Then how ready will we be? Maybe we should have more of a plan.

That there is the entirety of the post. Leave aside the staggering absence of depth (the hollow recommendation for “more of a plan”), the short piece is based on innuendo designed to stoke fears of a threat-that-isn’t.

An Iranian attack against U.S. soil was not what Mullen was talking about in Bahrain. A quick click on the link to a BBC article provided by “Emily” or me readily proves this. The headline unequivocally states as much (“…Mullen Reassures Gulf States on Iran”) as do Mullen’s quotes in the body of the BBC story (my emphasis):

The US was “very ready” to meet any challenge from Iran, he said. “There are real threats to peace and stability here, and we’ve made no secrets of our concerns about Iran.”

Does it sound like Mullen should have then espoused that the United States, in addition to already stated “concerns about Iran,” develop policy to address a tinfoil-hat conspiracy theory?

So this is exactly the EMP ruse.

Think Progress analyst Matt Duss made light of the obsession with EMP among advocates of far right foreign policy positions:

As a practical matter… it’s probably worth pointing out here that the likelihood of Iran, or anyone, actually pulling off such an attack is roughly the same as Iran building an enormous, space-bound vacuum cleaner and sucking up all of America’s oxygen. But Gaffney and other EMP threat promoters like Newt Gingrich are betting that most Americans aren’t going to invest the amount of time it would require to learn this.

Although Clarion thus far isn’t providing a “plan” to counter the EMP threat, many EMP fear-mongerers have: Missile defense systems. In a piece on an EMP conference, Right Web‘s Robert Farley wrote:

The central political purpose of the EMP awareness movement appears to be advancement of the cause of missile defense.

It’s no surprise, again, that Gaffney’s think tank receives much funding from the same groups — defense contractors (Boeing, General Atomics, General Dynamics, Litton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Thiokol, and TRW) — that would profit massively from the creation of the robust systems (including space-based missile defense) that these EMP scare-mongers are pushing.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Here we go again ! More Hollywood-style slop dished up by the usual suspects in order to instill more fear in the minds of Americans. Guaranteed to shut their brains off.
    I tried watching the trailer, but had to stop after 30 seconds. Truly vulgar.

    If Mr. “grand wizard” Gaffney really wants to save us from apocalyptic death rays, I have a suggestion for him : V-22 Osprey. All you need!

  2. Hello,

    While the possibility of this sort of attack seems to play to the fears of some people, I’ve not read anything here that is not just an ad-homonym attack against people who promote this as a threat. An ad hominem argument is any that attempts to counter another’s claims or conclusions by attacking the person, rather than addressing the argument itself.

    Such an attack is technically feasible in the foreseeable future for Iran and it would seem to the sort of high-risk, high reward style of plan that the Revolutionary Guard would at least consider. So I don’t think this is too far fetched to be at least aware of. In addition, such an event need not be brought about by an enemy attack; solar weather can produce the same effect. A direct hit from a large Coronal Mass Ejection might turn out the lights on a global scale rather than a regional scale.

    On a technical note, capabilities and intentions are two separate lines of inquiry. When conducting a threat assessment, the capabilities of the “threat” are what is considered, the intentions are a separate matter.

    Thanks and have a nice day.

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