Undeterred by the Great Satans power projection in the Gulf, Bassam Shakhar was eager to take his personal war to the shores of the United States. In an interview broadcast live by CNN, the international financier boldly promised to use his vast resources to terrorize the heartland of America if all U.S. military forces were not withdrawn from the Arabian Peninsula. Shakhar ended the interview by calling the American President a coward and a bully. His vituperative rhetoric panicked conservative emirs, crown princes, kings, and sheiks in the Middle East.
With the CIA-based Counter Terrorism Center tracking a number of his terrorist cells, Shakhar became enraged when one of his deputies suggested that Shakhar's satellite telephone calls were being monitored by U.S. reconnaissance spacecraft.
Five weeks later, with the approval of his consultative council (majlis al shura) Shakhar supported another major terrorist organization in their bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed more than 250 people. On the heels of the bombing, Saddam Hussein sent word that he would back Shakhar with money and weapons to terrorize the U.S. military.
As tensions mounted in the Gulf region, the American President reinforced his commitment to "dual containment" of the "pariah" states, Iraq and Iran. He delivered a stern warning to both countries; U.S. forces were going to keep them in check, and the U.S. military was going to maintain a long-term presence in the Arabian deserts and Persian Gulf waters.
Listening to the muffled chants from the militants in the street, Yegor Pavlinsky kept his gaze level and his expression pleasantly gentle. Get straight to the point. "Our countries could greatly benefit if we could collectively take advantage of the opportunities in the Gulf region."
Motionless and frowning, Bassam Shakhar quietly stared at the center of Pavlinsky's forehead.
"Unfortunately," Pavlinsky went on, "the presence of the U.S. military is having an adverse effect on the economy of both our countries. From our previous conversations, it is my understanding that you have been working on a plan to drive the Americans out of the region."
"Is your country," Shakhar began slowly, "prepared to assist me with my assault on America?"
Pavlinsky quietly nodded, then looked straight into the dark, sunken eyes of the terrorist leader. "Yes, in any way we can - covertly, of course," he quickly added. This is the opportunity we have been waiting for.
"At the request of your government," Pavlinsky went on, "we are sending fighter tactics instructor pilots to enhance the skills of your pilots. Additional scientists and engineers will be arriving soon to help with the missile development program, and we've had a number of experts helping to train your submarine crews. If there is anything we can do to help facilitate the removal of U.S. forces from the region, we stand ready to provide assistance."
"What about nuclear warheads?" Shakhar abruptly asked. "Without the warheads, everything else is useless."
In silence, the two men stared at each other.
"I have made arrangements for the nuclear warheads to be delivered to you," Pavlinsky answered, suppressing an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Working together, we can drive the Americans from the region."
Shakhar's jaw clenched and the iris of his right eye began to drift toward his nose. "It is my destiny," he said boldly as he shifted his bovine gaze to the crowds in the street, then back to Pavlinsky. "To be subservient to the infidels is to be not a man."
Shakhar remained impassive. "It is time to give President Macklin an ultimatum, a deadline for removing his military forces from the Islamic world. I will issue the deadline soon. If the President refuses to cooperate," Shakhar said in a scratchy voice, "he will become my primary target. I will have him assassinated."
Copyright Joe Weber 1999. All rights reserved.
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