Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chapter 13. The Noose

Uri Oren was winging his way back to Israel aboard the Airbus 330 that had just delivered a death blow to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, dropping 15 ton Bunker Busters deep into hardened facilities where they pulverized the contents and sent hundreds of feet of debris falling into the rubble, effectively burying it beyond recovery. Further, any radiological materials that had been within the targeted facilities had, no doubt, been scattered throughout, making any entry by a living human being a suicide mission guaranteeing a slow, painful death.

At the moment, however, Oren could not even consider the great victory he had helped to deliver. He had been contacted through secret channels and ordered to talk anyone he could contact into getting an Iranian radio station, Irib Payam, back on the air.

He hadn’t been told why, but the station’s radio energy was being used to make a locating device reveal the location of Mamoud Ahmadinijad, the madman who ostensibly presided over the Islamic Republic, doing the bidding of a collection of throwbacks to the dark ages who were considered Ayatollahs, or penultimate religious leaders in the Theocracy. Most of them were low on intellect and big on hate-driven fervor. They were the Dons of this religious Cosa Nostra called Iran.

The American’s had been given the output of the device and the American President had become convinced that the signal reveled the location of Osama Bin Laden.

No one had actually said that to him, but Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak had said that someone had referred to the target as the sheik. The Israelis had long ago decided that if Obama took the bait that they would thank the US for their support and deny they ever said the target was Obama. Obama’s favorability ratings in Israel were in single digits, yet he failed to suspect anything. As Israel suspected, Obama’s ego was too big and out of control for him to exercise the thoughtful restraint necessary during a crisis. He was hooked on the bait that Israel had dangled. If in the future Obama might again stand against the Jewish State, he could be sure that there were tapes or transcripts that would leak. In addition, there were the domestic political considerations.

Hillary Clinton was just waiting to pounce on an Obama miscue. No one would be surprised if she would resign in opposition to an Obama move to elevate herself and damage him in the process.

Obama had made a mistake putting her the big chair at the State Department, one he couldn’t easily undo. And, she had allies - like Leon Panetta. Panetta had been hammered by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House and accused of lying to Congress. It had demoralized the CIA and made Panetta wish he’d declined the appointment. Obama had been unwilling to defend the CIA and Panetta had privately called him, “pathetic.” Clinton was an old friend, a Pelosi nemesis and a survivor. The stars were aligned against Obama and yet, at the moment, he was only concerned with the sudden loss of the signal from Iran.

Oren was waiting for young Amin Mahmudi, a technical assistant at the radio station. He had persuaded Mahmudi that he was Mohmmad Soleimani, the Minister of Information and Communications. Mahmudi would do anything for the government official in charge of the nation’s radio and television.

“Minister Soleimani?”

“Yes, Amin?”

“I have three people with me who each have a telephone.”

“Excellent, they are to use their telephone’s to provide light. Use them as torches and have them search for the emergency generator. When they find it, they are to shout out to you and guide you to their location. Then, we’ll take it from there.”

“Yes. I understand. I will explain this.”

Oren could hear Amin in the background saying, “Come, follow me to the basement. Use your phone for a light and I will tell you what we are looking for.”

Suddenly, Ami was back on the line, “Minister, what am I looking for?”

“Amin, it will look like a large electric motor attached to an engine, perhaps an automobile engine. It may be more than a meter in diameter. There may also be batteries nearby for the starter and...the entire thing may be in a cage. I don’t know. You must just look in utility areas.”

“Very good,” Amin said with an official air, and he returned to instructing his entourage as they entered the dark basement.

“I think you should call it off, Mr. President,” said Leon Panetta. He was responding to a discussion that Jim Jones, National Security Advisor and Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff were having with the President regarding the framing of the announcement should they hit Bin Laden, or should they hit and miss Bin Laden.

Emanuel asserted himself before Obama could engage Panetta,“The decision’s been made,” he said.

“I know,” said Panetta, “but nothing’s happened yet. There’s still time to think about this.”

Obama followed Emanuel’s lead. “Leon, we’ll keep an eye on the screen. How long before everyone’s in position for the strike, General Holland?”

Air Force General Bill Holland responded on the speakerphone. “An hour and maybe 15 minutes. The helicopter will take about that long to reach the target, the jets don;t have to scramble for another few minutes.”

“A lot can happen in an hour,” assured Obama, looking at Panetta. Nevertheless, Panetta had gone on record as being opposed to the mission and that was just where he wanted to be.

“Minister Soleimani! I think I have found it!” Came a shout through the telephone link.

“Excellent, Amin! Describe what you see.”

“It is just as you said. There is a large motor. I think it is electric because I can see shiny wires inside the motor and there is an engine attached to it. A large engine.”

“Are there any signs, or warnings?” asked Oren urgently.

“It says General Electric. I know that symbol, but I cannot read the English!”

“Okay. Look for a large switch or a push button.”

“Yes, I see a large red and green button.”

“Push the green button, Amin.”

Oren could hear a whining churning sound, like a car turning over on a cold morning. It didn’t sound right.

“Amin. Push the red button.”

“It did not start, Minister. What should I do?”

“It needs fuel, Amin. Do you see a tank of fuel?”

“No, Minister, there is an oxygen tank.”

“Amin, that’s the fuel. It’s an LPG tank. Can you tap on it, is there a gauge?”

“No, there is no gauge. The line goes to the first machine, to the engine.” Is there a valve on the tank, Amin? Damn, Amin. You must think about this. I cannot do it all.”

Oren was disappointed that he had lost his temper, except it was very much in character for anyone in the upper echelons of the corrupt Iranian government. That’s why they were hated so much. It’s why just two weeks earlier a secret group of Iranian Sunnis opposed to the government of Ayatolah had selected a member from their midst to walk into the middle of a room filled with leadership of the Revolutionary Guard and Basiji. The Basiji are plain-clothes vigilantes who do the bidding of the revolutionary guard. The Baathists in Iraq were the same kind of a hit squad. Almost two-dozen were killed and nearly seventy seriously wounded. It shook the foundations of the Khamenei regime.

The Israelis commenced the strike earlier than planned after the Sunnis struck, fearing that Ahmadinijad would strike first in order to coalesce the populace in a war against the Jews.

“Minister, there is a valve in the line right on top of the engine. It was shut. I have opened it, shall I try the green button again?”

“Yes, Amin. Now!”

No one had said a word in about 10 minutes. The equipment room in the basement of the Jerusalem apartment building was heating up as racks of electronic equipment maintained their stations in the cyberwar battle against Iran.

“It’s back!”

“They’ve moved!”

“What is that?”

“It’s one of the Apartment buildings.”

“They’re moving across the entire building like there are no walls?”

“It is the roof. They are on the roof! It’s the only part of the building without walls.”

“Is our feed still up?”

“Yes, the Americans can see it now.”

Cheers went up in the Situation Room. A couple people shook Obama’s hand as if to congratulate him for something.

“Mr. President the jets are away,” reported General Holland.

“Thank you, General.”

“Mr. President,” Mullen had his earpiece pressed to his head with his right hand. “The Pentagon has analysts on this signal. The target’s moved and it looks like he’s on the roof of one of the buildings in the complex.

“Let’s hope he’s taking nap,” said the President.

“Yeah, surrounded by a hundred of his top guys,” added Emanuel.

“Our satellite has acquired a picture, Mr. President.”

“Put it up, Morrell,” ordered Obama.

“Amin. You will receive a medal if I have anything to say about it! You have done a wonderful job under difficult circumstances.”

“Thank you, Minister. But I must go up to the studio and make sure there is something on the air.”

“Amin, I want you to just get something on the air. A CD. An opera perhaps. Leave the transmitter on and post a message. You may sign my name. The message must say that no one may enter the premise until further notice. Can you do that Amin?”

“Yes, Minister. Whatever you ask. But what about the programming? The CD will run only about an hour.”

“Amin. Just go home. These things are decided at the highest levels. The Basiji will be at the station soon, you should just go be with your family.”

“Do you see him?” asked Mrs. Clinton.

“Man, black is the new black in Iran,” cracked Emanuel.

“There’s a shitload of guys in black,” said Biden. “They might be clerics. If we blast them we’re in a world of hurt.”

“Joe, nobody likes these guys. Nobody,” countered Emanuel.

“I don’t like blowing up Mullahs, Barack,” said Biden, “Bad foreign policy.”

Mrs. Clinton perked up. “We’re way past the point of diplomacy, Mr. Vice President,” she said. It was a brilliant statement, distancing her from the decision and putting the room on notice.

“It’s some kinda’ meeting. They probably wanted to get up in the air to be safer. Forgot about our birds,” suggested Jones.

“No, they don’t think we’re in the game,” said Obama.

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