On February 6, EMPact America hosted a panel discussion with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), Ambassador and former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, and Founder and President of the Center for Security Policy Frank Gaffney.

The event, titled “American Security and the Iranian Bomb: Analyzing Threats at Home and Abroad,” focused on the ramifications of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. The realist view of national security remained the underlying theme throughout the discussion. From the introduction to Senator Cruz’s closing remarks, the speakers reminded their audience that remaining naive to the presence of evil in the world is not mere ignorance, it is “willful blindness.”

A recent and particularly disconcerting threat from an Iranian military official—that “[America] will be destroyed from within”—demands that the federal government focus on protecting the infrastructure of the United States. Currently, the greatest threat to American lives and property is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. An attack of this nature would affect 17 of the United States’ 18 critical infrastructures (food, water, etc.) that rely on electricity. It is estimated that such an attack would kill nine out of 10 Americans.

After the attack this past April on the power grid in California, awareness of the dangers of EMP has slowly increased. Although ballistic missile defense is not capable of disarming militants, it can protect the U.S. from a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead capable of disrupting the nation’s power grid. It is estimated that it will cost only $3 per American to adequately secure the United States power grid from an EMP attack targeted along transmission lines. In light of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the increasing likelihood of an intense solar flare, this is a relatively low price to pay for the security of American lives.

In addition to reinforcing America’s power grid against an EMP attack, improvement of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system is a reliable asset in deflecting a nuclear attack from a hostile nation. A layered missile defense system possesses the capability to shoot down a ballistic missile carrying a nuclear weapon, one of the fastest means of delivering an EMP attack. The current Administration has significantly reduced missile defense funding, subjecting the American people vulnerable to greater risk in the event of an EMP attack. Studies show that it takes only 33 minutes for a missile launched from anywhere in the world to reach the United States. In light of this reality, the Obama Administration’s actions  have worked against U.S. ability to protect itself from a ballistic missile attack.

The panel focused primarily on the threat of an Iranian nuclear attack. Senator Cruz emphasized the militant and hateful nature of the Iranian regime by repeatedly stating, “If someone says they’re going to kill you, you should believe them.” Some have advanced the idea that the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, is a moderate, and, therefore, tame in comparison with his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called for a world “without America.” However, Rouhani recently declared, “Saying ‘Death to America’ is easy. We need to express ‘Death to America’ with action.”

The Iranian government has consistently proven that it cannot be trusted. Sanctions against Iran should be heightened not diminished. The Obama Administration’s current negotiations with Iran do not require Iran to destroy any of their nuclear centrifuges, which allow them to develop a nuclear weapon. Senator Cruz concurs with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Iran is the most dangerous power in the world trying to acquire the most dangerous weapon.

Rebecca Robison is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.