Dressed in a long dark cloak and white turban, Bassam Shakhar entered the austere chambers of his closely guarded office complex in the heart of the city. The thickly bearded multimillionaire, his lips barely covering his protruding teeth, was a fierce defender of the hard-line clergy. When the power struggle between Iran's moderate president and the conservatives turned ugly, Shakhar had prodded agents from the Intelligence Ministry to assassinate over a dozen dissident writers and politicians.
Without looking directly at the Russian politician, Shakhar raised his arm and motioned for Yegor Pavlinsky to take a seat on the opposite side of the conference table. Pavlinsky quietly sat down and folded his hands on the table.
Shakhar, an intractable and humorless man with a permanently furrowed brow, stiffened ever so slightly before he sat. His pinched eyes were deep brown, and when he became irritated or excited the right one tended to turn inward. A dangerous and unpredictable man, Shakhar's complex character reflected generous portions of aggression, grandiosity, paranoia and narcissism. The combination of traits was accentuated by a total lack of conscience.
Muffled sounds of jeers and shouts from Shakhar's growing league of followers permeated the building. "Death to the Americans!" the crowd of Islamic militants chanted while they burned a dozen U.S. flags. "Death to the enemies of Islam!" Acting on the orders of Shakhar, the fanatical throngs of anti-American militants were creating factional violence not seen since the revolution in 1979.
Additional devoted followers, estimated at 17,000 and rapidly growing, were venomously protesting against America in various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Sudan, Libya, Bosnia, Yemen, Egypt, the Philippines, Chechnya, and Malaysia.
Bassam Shakhar, one of the masterminds behind a series of terrorist bombings and hero to legions of Islamic fundamentalists, was a strong advocate of using terrorism to drive the United States military out of Saudi Arabia and the entire Persian Gulf region. To expedite his ambitious plans, the murderous psychopath had developed a growing infrastructure to train and indoctrinate hard-core terrorists, including a sizable cadre of "throwaway agents" known as suicide bombers.
A powerful figure in Iran, Shakhar had openly and loudly declared that the "United States was the enemy of the Islamic Republic" and called for the Iranian leadership to reject and dialogue with Washington. He had gone on to explain that "talks or relations with the United States would have no benefit for the Iranian people." He had concluded his bitter remarks by reminding his vast audience about the 1988 shootdown of an Iranian jetliner by a U.S. Navy cruiser, then blamed Washington for another incident in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
Determined to bring America to its knees, Shakhar later used state-run radio and television, along with major newspapers, to declare a personal jihad against U.S. military personnel in the Gulf region. Three weeks after his announcement, he and members of the Iranian secret police planned and supervised a car bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that killed 6 American advisers to the Saudi National Guard.
Emboldened by the results of the Riyadh attack, Shakhar provided financial backing to the terrorists who bombed the barracks building in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force and wounded 386 servicemen.
While the Pentagon was shifting U.S. air operations from Dhahran to other bases with better security, Shakhar continued to use the conservative newspaper Islamic Republic (Jomhuri Islami) to threaten U.S. military forces and their Commander in Chief. Using the London-based newspapers Asharq Al-Awsat and al-Hayat, and newspapers in Egypt, Libya, the Philippines, Italy, and Jordan, Shakhar urged Arab leaders to unite in a jihad against the "master of the world."
Copyright Joe Weber 1999. All rights reserved.
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