Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chapter 9. The Levant

The great arcing curve of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean is known as the Levant. The word Lebanon is a derivative. A student of romance languages might conclude the meaning if they recognize the verb, “to rise” within the word.

The Levant had a mystical connotation for the Sea Peoples who first ventured from Sicily, Sardinia and the Greek islands to explore and eventually populate the Levant. They were the antecedents of the Philistines, drawn to the area now sometimes called Palestine by the promise of the rising of the sun, and the implacable human need to explore and conquer.

They discovered that other tribes living beyond the Levant had the same reverence for the East. It was there that the Sun began its daily march across the sky, the Sun that gave life to the Earth and punished the desert. This sort of dual personality exhibited by gods of the time when evidenced in a heavenly body easily explains how simpler people could attribute god-like status to a burning ball of hydrogen gas. Ra, the Egyptian sun god, depicted as a golden orb, is a prime example.

The Sumerians, an ancient people who once built a flourishing nation where northern Iraq is located today, called the East, ‘Asa’ and the West, ‘Osa’. Asa, the word, grew to embody a dual meaning, both the compass direction, and the land it represented, Asia.

Today, war in the East arose with the Sun. Israel’s helicopters and fighter jets made great loops around their targets to approach them so that the sun would be in the eyes of their defenders. Even though most defensive weapons were computer controlled, men still feared their attackers and wanted to be able to see them coming. With the sun in their eyes, defenders were always handicapped.

“I don’t get it.” confessed Admiral Mullen.

“You mean how pointless it is?” asked general Holland from the speakerphone.


“What am I missing?” asked the President.

“After all this is said and done. We’ve got a war, but no resolution. None of these weapons even approach taking out Iran’s hardened nuclear facilities. Plus, Israel’s about to be obliterated.” commented Holland.

“Maybe, I know this sounds crazy, but maybe Israel thinks they can take the punch and run Iran out of candles.” suggested Mullen.

“The Iranians are gonna’ take out Tel Aviv, probably leave Jerusalem alone, but Tel Aviv and Haifa, Joppa, Netanya, they’re toast.”

“How long have they got?”

“Missiles are just about to start crossing Jordan, sir, that’s 150 miles to Haifa and Tel Mach 1? say 10 to 15 minutes.”

“Sir, Ehud Barak on Secure green 6.” called the Major.

Obama punched a button on his phone and picked up the receiver.

“Mr. Barak. I’m surprised to hear from you at this moment.”

“Communicating in a while may be problematic. So, it must be now. Bibi wants to speak with you, but he is on the line with Alon Pinkus. Should be soon. I have an urgent matter he has asked me to convey.”


“We have a highly placed operative in Muqtada al-Sadr’s entourage. This has taken us a matter of many years of diligence and patience. Al-Sadr has been in the company of Hassan Nazrallah, the Hizbollah leader, ever since he fled Iraq. We have followed many munitions from Iran to Iraq and even on to Israel that flowed into our midst because of their collaboration. This has brought extreme violence and tragic consequences to both our countries.”

“I am aware of much of that, Mr. Barak.”

“Three days ago a man joined them for a meeting. One just one occasion he has been referred to as “The Sheik.”

“Bin Laden?”

“He has been called “The Sheik.” We have a description of a tall, thin Yemeni with a leg injury. I believe we know who it is. We suspect he traveled into Iran from a southern route. Maybe by ship. Eveyone had been looking for him in the mountains, in Tora Bora or in the caves. He’s not there. The target is in Teheran at this very moment..”

“Are you going to attack. Can you get him?”

“Oh, yes, we are certain we can. He is in a residential area. I expect they are all together.”

“But you are not going to attack?”

“Probably not...for two reasons. First, we have a special covert relationship with the Saudis and the Jordanians, the Egyptians, also. That would be severely damaged and we cannot risk it - especially at this time. Second, he is just another bad guy to us. But he is an almost mythical enemy to you. Bibi and I believe there is a lot more value in your being the one to bring him to justice than if we should be the ones to do it.”

“I see.” Obama also realized it would make all the efforts of his administration look feckless if Bin Laden was finally brought down by little Israel.

“Of course, please understand, I can not reveal how we have targeted him, but I can tell you that we have a signal and it is coming from his person. I can send you an image of the signal and its GPS coordinates by a secure data link. You can do with it what you wish. I can also promise you that our aircraft will not molest yours and that you will have little or no resistance between the Green Zone and Teheran. In just a few minutes, we will have completed taking apart their air power.

Now, Mr. President, my Prime Minister wishes to speak with you and I must attend to other urgent matters.”

“Thank you, Mr. Barak.” said the President, but Ehud Barak had already handed the telephone to Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Mr. Prime Minister?”

“Mr. President.”

“What can I do for you?” asked Obama with great compassion in his voice.

“Barack, I want to thank you for your forbearance. Thank you for allowing us to defend our homeland against this genocidal maniac and his regime.”

“You’re welcome, Benjamin. It was the right thing to do.”

“I agree, and very smart. I’m sure you will understand that I will not be available for the next several hours, Mr. President. Please contact Ambassador Pinkus, personally or through your representative, as you choose. You will be my first call upon my return, I promise.”

“Very good.”

And with that, Netanyahu was gone. Obama had wanted to discuss the matter of Ahmadinijad with Netanyahu directly, but now that would not be possible. He placed the handset in its cradle and asked for the group’s close attention.

“It appears the Israelis have handed us UBL, if we want him.”

“Let’s get the bastard,” roared Biden.

“Are they holding him?” asked Mrs. Clinton.

A momentary chaos erupted in the room. There were lots of questions, stunned disbelief, joy, and years of pent-up anger being released in one moment.

“Whoa, whoa..Here’s the story,” pleaded the President. They have an operative in the midst of the Hizbollah-Mahdi Army cabal and he claims Osama has just joined them. There’s a device that’s somehow on him and transmitting. Can they do that, Leon?”

They’re the best in the world, if they said they did it, they probably did”

“So, if we want him. We have to bomb him.”

“Mr. President,” interrupted Biden, “You need to be the one that gets Bin Laden. The joy that would bring to America! Now the political implications can’t be denied, and think of the demoralizing effect that success would place on our enemies. There’s no downside.”

“Can we do it, General Holland?”

“Sure, especially now. There’s not much resistance left.”

“Mrs. Clinton, the heat will be on you.”

Hillary was watching her presidential candidacy become an asterisk on a Wikipedia entry. She just smiled broadly. It brought a big smile to every face in the room.

“Alright then,” acknowledged the President. CENTCOM or the Pentagon should be getting a feed from Israel with a signal and coordinates. That’s our target.”

Admiral Mullen spoke up, ‘Can we verify?”

Obama shook his head. “They’re gone into bunkers or wherever,” said Obama. “Leon, what can you do for us?”

“Whew! We have zero assets that close up,” said Panetta. You have to believe they’ve got a bead on him. They’re the best in the world,” he repeated.

“Okay.” said Obama. He finally felt like he had accomplished something, like a decision had been made that was Presidential. Even the Nobel committee would have to conclude that the death of a terrorist brought the world closer to a peaceful state. There had been too much criticism of Obama as an undeserving warmaker in the days following the Peace Prize announcement. It was a lot more pressure on him than he had expected.

Admiral Mullen spoke up, “I want to overlay our own hi-res satellite imagery on those coordinates and see if we’ve got human movement - room to room, building to building. I want to make sure we’re not tracking a camel.”

“Go for it.” said Obama. He was feeling pretty good about how this day would dawn in Washington.

In Tel Aviv, word was reaching command centers that the Hueys were at 10,000 feet over their targets and all eight bunker busters were being dropped on a single command. That would add to the fog of war because when damage reports were being conveyed, people would think it impossible that all facilities were damaged and believe that reports were erroneous.

Fighters had been recalled and were releasing any remaining armament on secondary targets. They needed to fly back without any extra weight, too much fuel had been spent and their credit cards were only good in Israel. One limping aircraft did get permission to land in Bagdad, although he was first refused by an Iraqi controller who was only overridden when he buzzed the tower twice and caught the attention of a US Lieutenant General.

Uri Oren received a page and picked up the phone. In his best Farsi he told the tower he was getting out of there, that he was ordered out. Oren was told that the military had shut down the airport but there were no obstacles on the runway. “Then I am leaving now,” he said and hung up the phone. Oren understood the current state of chaos, the low probability he would create a problem for the military and the general loose control the Iranians had over commercial air traffic. If he went away, it would be one less variable for everyone to think about. The second aircraft had already arrived and would pull the same stunt within a few minutes, just before the first giant bunker buster hit the ground.

With the perfectly choreographed help of his ground crew, Oren got the massive aircraft backed up and the jets started whining. Two crew members jumped aboard through the open bomb bay and immediately operated it and sealed it up. Three crew remained. The fuel load was about half capacity.

Oren had reviewed the route when in Amman the night of the bomb bay installation and had decided he would fly a loose S-shape which would cover all his targets. The S-shape would make it appear that he was always flying away from the next target until he was close enough to make the turn and drop. The last turn of the S sent him westward, toward home, toward Israel.

Off the end of the runway, the Giant Airbus climbed steep and slow. Uri could begin to see columns of smoke rising from innumerable locations beyond the airport district. He maintained his climb and requested 35,000 feet from air traffic control. There was no reply. Smoke around the airport had created a thick fog of low level haze to about 1500 feet, but as the blunt nose of the Airbus escaped the haze, the shock of the bright morning light filling the cabin disrupted Uri’s concentration like the first intonations of the Call to Prayer.

He was en route to Qom. It was time for him to put an end to the madness.

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