40 days to Armageddon

By

Reynold Jay

 

Prelude

The Past

 

A Mi-8 chopper hovered twenty-five miles northwest of Lake Baikal sometimes called the “rich lake” near Irkutsk, and landed on a rocky forest of pine and elm. Two figures emerged, one sporting a leather coat, felt hat and Ray-Ban Aviators, the other a military uniform with gold and silver medals emblazoned across his chest.

 

“This is the place, then?” inquired the Russian president while he watched his breath drift off in the frosty air.

 

“The pipeline will pass over that ridge.” General Dimochka Sergeievich pointed to the north. “We were careful to move it far from Lake Baikal as originally planned. The Tomsk Oblast and Khanty-Mansi fields will pump into it and from there it will branch off into three separate lines that will feed the Asian markets including one directly to China. New fields discovered here can be fed into it if we make it large enough.”

 

Lake Baikal, “The Blue Eye of Siberia,” had waited silently for this moment for more than three hundred million years. The Triassic, Jurassic, and Cenozoic periods were but a blink of an eye for the largest inland lake in the world, larger than all of the Great Lakes combined. Great behemoths drank its waters and roamed in the forested woodlands then one day it rained fire from the heavens and they disappeared forever. As the waters rested, its surrounding lands matured and secreted a vast hidden reservoir of blackened sludge that was much larger than the lake.

 

Millions of years later an upright walking mammal had developed an unquenchable thirst for the blackened sludge that hid beneath the surface.

 

Mankind had discovered that the “black gold” held within it, the power of the life giving sun. And in the end—the survival of the clans came to depend upon it. There was nothing they would not do to acquire it, no act to inhumane to defend it.

 

Nations rose and fell depending upon their ability to acquire and defend the great oil fields. Those who controlled the natural resource flourished, the others fell to the wayside. The quest for survival depended upon it.

 

“How long will it take to get it operational?”

 

“It is thousands of miles of pipe. In seven years we will have the largest pipeline in our country on line.”

 

“We will rebuild our country with the revenues, then?”

 

“Most certainly, Mr. President—the Saudis and the Iranians will look like a tiny drop in the ocean if we continue to find the new fields as we have planned. Add to it the fields off the Pacific, the Baltic and others and we will be able to supply much of the entire world soon.”

 

“I want this completed in five years. Do whatever it takes to get the manpower up here.”

 

“Yes sir, Mr. President. I’ll relay your order to Transneft. I am sure we can easily complete this in five years.”

 

“Great. Do it.”

 

The pair boarded the chopper and flew back to the Kremlin.

 

 

Chapter One

The Present

 

February 6—11:59 A.M. The Iranian Desert

 

In one minute every living thing within fifty kilometers would be incinerated.

 

And there was nothing anyone could do about it.

 

Ishaq Al-Awzai, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, sat in the command bunker on the phone with Khalilullah ‘Abd al-Wahhab, the president of Iran, waiting for the go-ahead.

 

“NgAm, All is good.” A half smile curled across his lips while a crimson scar above his temple pulsated like a writhing serpent. “Allah has blessed us today.”

 

He glanced at the bank of towering screens that lined the wall, all fixed upon the blast site. The command center had a spit clean look to it. A gaggle of high tech equipment spread across the bunker while a hundred or so technicians, scientists, and military brass sat behind computers listening to the countdown.

 

“Thirty seconds and counting….”

 

“It is a great day for Iran and Allah shines upon us.”

 

General Hanbal tapped him on the shoulder and handed him another phone. “Tehran is on the line, sir.”

 

“Shokran.”

 

The Supreme Leader inquired. “All is in readiness?”

 

“FIFTEEN SECONDS….”

 

“We will know shortly.”

 

Pause

 

“TEN AND COUNTING…. ”

 

Commander Al-Awzai held his breath and murmured a prayer.

 

“EIGHT. SEVEN. SIX. FIVE. FOUR. THREE….”

 

The ground mushroomed up like a bubble about to burst. Then it fell back—perhaps it had changed its mind. Waves of earth moved as though it was liquid—a stone tossed into ethereal water sending spasms in all directions. Shock waves, not unlike an earthquake, shook the bunker while the lights and screens sputtered, went dark for a brief moment.

 

When the rumbling subsided, the crew cheered then jumped up and down like children while embracing each other.

 

One held up a graph and shouted, “It is over forty megatons—ran clear off the charts! It is nearly the largest WMD in the world!”

 

“Our prayers have been answered.”

 

The Supreme Leader possessed a fatherly compassionate voice and appeared on one of the overhead screens. “You have done well my sons. Your country and Allah gives thanks to you and all who have worked so hard for this glorious day.” He raised his arms to give his blessing to all. “The full glory of Allah will soon shine upon us.”

 

All bowed to Mecca and chanted the prayer. “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”

 

Six billion would soon discover that this was the beginning of the end.

 

In a microsecond the world had changed forever—there was no going back. It was the dawn of the new world order.

~*~

As usual, the news was nearly all bad.

 

President Marshall Landenberger sat alone at his desk in the Oval Office looking over the reports. The economy was still in the dumpster; inflation was out of control since the moment he took over the previous year. The stock market was struggling along and the usual criticisms of the government filled the airwaves twenty-four hours a day. Worst of all, his approval rating had dropped another point while he was on his South American goodwill tour.

 

Goodwill tour. Crap! He tossed the Wall Street Journal in the trash. It was late and time to get some shuteye. He stood and stretched his arms.

 

The intercom light was flashing. It was the end of his quarter hour of solitude. “Yes.”

 

“Willy and the VP say it is urgent….”

 

Willard Bumgardner, the SecDef and Steven Prottenger burst through the door, both looking grim. Prottenger pulled a stick of gum from his pocket, “The Iranians set off a bomb—a WMD of immense proportions!” He unwrapped the pink stick, popped it into his mouth, and stuffed the wrapper in his pocket.

 

“When?”

 

“Forget the duds that North Korea set off.” Willie began the briefing and with a nod of his head indicated that they would escort him down the hallway to the White House Situation Room. “Those were firecrackers at a Sunday School picnic next to this baby. They set it off a half-hour ago and the IRIB is running videos of it. The CIA picked it up twenty minutes ago. It’ll hit the airwaves here in a few minutes.”

 

The trio headed past the steel bomb-proof doors, then down three flights of stairs to the Sit-Room subterranean chamber. Others joined in behind and the aroma of fresh coffee filled the room as staff members were handed steaming cups as they entered. It could be an all-nighter. Michael Costanzo, National Security Advisor, Melissa Farnsworth, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and Harold Whittman, White House Press Secretary, were engaged on phones along with a dozen others.

 

High-tech equipment was scattered around the perimeter, plasma screens lined the wall with the footage of the bomb blast from NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and others—all live broadcast. The hot line—the infamous red phone sat in a corner on a polished black walnut table.

 

“Where’s Shaughnessy?” he wondered out loud, referring to the White House Chief of Staff.

 

“I believe he is out of town.” Houston Robinson, nicknamed “Watchdogg,” smiled and offered to get him on the phone.

 

Landenberger waved it off as not that urgent and observed the youngest member of his team. A mere forty-one years, he surmised the man was probably sharper than all of them put together. Handsome too; finely cut features, a tall sturdy frame—he could have stepped out of GQ magazine. He had been an assistant to Schwarzenegger for a short stint and that had propelled him into the limelight. Too intelligent to remain at the low end of the totem, he snapped him up and soon had Houston scouting the world, sniffing around like a hound dog, seeking out the underbelly of the political climate in the capitals throughout the world.

 

Officially, Robinson did not exist on his staff. Reporters inquired from Harold Whittman, the White House Press Secretary, as to who was this mysterious person that suddenly appeared on the scene?

 

“His name is Houston Robinson. There is no official position for him, as all the cabinet positions are filled, and rather than boot out someone, we simply slipped him in between the cracks. To say the least, he is a gifted individual with many talents. He is a former CIA, speaks five languages, and is the most charming man you could ever hope to meet.”

 

“What exactly does he do?”

 

“He does whatever the president tells him to do.”

 

This received a chuckle from the press. “Seriously, we expect to send him around the world talking to world leaders. Often we receive urgent calls that the president is needed face to face with a world leader and the president simply can’t pick up and leave the country because of previous commitments. Robinson will fill that gap in our diplomacy.”

 

Landenberger took a seat at the head of the conference table. “Let’s hear what everyone has to say.”

 

Willy Bumgardner seated himself on the left of the president and began the conference. “There is no immediate threat to us at this hour. I imagine it will be some time until they set off another one.” He opened a folder marked “classified” and placed wire rimmed spectacles to his eyes. “Having a large WMD means little without the means to deliver it. How large was it?”

 

“They are reporting it somewhere around forty megatons, maybe more,” Robinson answered. “It shook the entire Middle East.”

 

“Forty megatons—that is something to reckon with—not one of those firecrackers set off by the North Koreans.”

 

“Forty? My God!” exclaimed Melissa Farnsworth, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, “Enough to wipe out half of Texas!”

 

“I’m afraid so my dear—possibly all of Texas and then some.” He wiped his brow with a white handkerchief. “They have a Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missile system perfected that can deliver a small warhead up to 1300 miles. They’ve been working on a larger IRBM, much like an ICBM that they call Ghadr-110, which can deliver up to 3500 miles. We don’t know when they will have it ready.”

 

“Where’s Deshano?” wondered President Landenberger as he glanced around the desk for the Director of Central Intelligence. “He would know.”

 

Robinson suggested, “I can get him on the phone for you, Mr. President.” Robinson and Deshano worked side by side during his first two years in the CIA and they often hung out together.

 

“Do it now—thanks, Houston.” He always called him by his first name. He often thought of him as a son—a member of the family.

 

“Should we move up the security alert system to orange?” wondered Melissa Farnsworth.

 

“That might be overreacting a bit and would alarm our citizens more than anything else,” answered the president. “This is a long range threat to our security.”

 

A distinctive Cajun accented voice came from the phone monitor. “Mr. President, what can I do for ya this morn’n?”

 

“Good morning, Larry. It is nice to hear from you.”

 

“Hey, I would be there with the rest of ya’ guys, however I thought it best to be in the trenches in case sump’m urgent came up. This Iran test has us all worried. We are monitoring all kinds of chatter.”

 

“We are all concerned and I have one question, then I’ll let you go, Larry.”

 

“Shoot.”

 

“We wonder where Iran is on the IRBM? Will it be up and running soon?”

 

“Yeah—that is the million dollar question and it doesn’t really matter that much. They have the Shabib-2 and 3’s and can launch them from their subs and aircraft carriers. I can call them and ask them to keep me in the loop!” He laughed. “Seriously, they won’t have this for another year—maybe three years.”

 

“How do you view this morning’s events?”

 

“Not good. You should be concerned about the Ghidar—that’s one mean stealth sub they have been trying to hide from us. They could navigate off our shore and lob most anything at us before we knew what happened.”

 

“Tell me more about the Ghidar sub.”

 

“You ain’t gonna like this.”

 

“We are all grown adults….”

 

“OK. They make these subs within their borders with parts from Russia, China, and North Korea. They have a couple hundred of these, based upon our reports. It’s a midget submarine with two to six people to operate it and it must be near larger ships if they are to make it through the day. There are no living quarters, so they must return to a mother ship. For all we know; they have a hundred or more off our shore this very moment.”

 

“You are right. I don’t like this at all.”

 

“We look for the mother ships and then we know the subs are skulking around in our ports.”

 

“Our ports?” This was alarming.

 

“Oh, yeah—they could come right into New York harbor, land on Liberty Island, enjoy a picnic, and we would never know it.”

 

“Good God.”

 

“The good news is they could not launch anything as large as the one they tested this morning.”

 

“I hate to ask….”

 

“Probably a five or ten megaton; large enough to wipe out New York in a millisecond. Ten or twenty of these in a Pearl Harbor attack and all our major cities would be vaporized in a couple of minutes.”

 

Everyone in the room was alarmed with the report. Someone observed, “Life as we know it would be gone.”

 

“They have been purchasing Kilo subs with a vengeance from the Russians too. These are the real thing, big mothers with full crews that can launch most anything you give it.”

 

“Do you think they are planning an attack with these subs?”

 

“Who knows what goes through the minds of these people?”

 

“I want you to access the sub purchases and get a report on my desk ASAP. Do you see a pattern that suggests an imminent attack once they begin producing nuclear weapons?”

 

“I’m on it right away, Mr. President. I’ll have the Pentagon send you what they have too.”

 

“Access any delivery system they now possess or will possess in the next two years and get it to me. I also must know how long it will be until they finish their tests and begin making final product.”

 

“Got it.”

 

“ If you went from your gut and made an assessment right now—”

 

“Off the record, Mr. President. Nothing you would hold me to….”

 

“Off the record—your gut instinct.”

 

“Hmm. I’d be worried. The bomb is a part of a larger plan…the subs could be a part of it—maybe
not.”

 

“That’s all I need for now.”

~*~

 

Chapter Two

 

February 7—4:07 P.M. The UN, Manhattan, New York

 

The UN called an emergency session to deal with the crisis.

 

Georgiy Kuznetsov Tolstoy, President of the Russian Federation, addressed the assembly. The crowd was becoming restless with all the presentations that seemed endless.

 

He finished up his thirty-minute speech “…and we see no cause for alarm. When our own country suffered a setback many years ago, we note that our Soviet Republics Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine returned our weapons to us as an act of goodwill. Possessing a weapon does not necessarily lead to mass destruction—to what end? We can look at history and see that the use of nuclear weapons, though an effective deterrent against aggression, has been used only by the United States and that was an exceptional circumstance not to be repeated—

 

“Let us all understand that the development of a nuclear weapon is for defensive purposes only and that we all can live in a world of mutual understanding. Certainly no one can be criticized for developing a WMD when so many others possess it. One must look at history and see that no harm has come when others obtained the technology. Hostilities always exist as we know, however those possessing WMD have not unleashed these weapons upon each other, nor will they ever.

 

“Our world community has discouraged these weapons for many years with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We must accept that any country that has the means will do everything it can to develop defensive weapons as a deterrent. History tells us that no amount of persuasion will deter a country working in its own best interests. Although we have discouraged this endeavor from the beginning, we must all be realistic and recognize that Iran has acted to protect itself—and being a religious and moral community, will not let us down. We of the Russian Federation extend the olive branch of peace to Iran who has joined an exclusive community of world powers. Thank you.”

 

The audience remained silent as he left the podium.

 

Marshall Landenberger presented another viewpoint. “…and we condemn this action and can only view it as hostile. While others have bowed to the wishes of the world community and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has chosen to disregard all of it and has pressed ahead without remorse. I can only point out that this country openly calls for the destruction of Israel, a peace loving nation, and I quote, not once but many times ‘Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth!’ Its past president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and present president, Khalilullah ‘Abd al-Wahhab have made these statements many times and have gone so far as to deny the Holocaust and the death of seven million Jews. We note that history tells us that evil intentions have always been announced well in advance and the world in every instance had chosen to sit idly by while terror swept across the globe. Mein Kamph comes to mind today.

 

“It is the force behind terror that sweeps our planet: Hezbolah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the West Bank. And our brave soldiers who died at the hands of roadside bombs in Iraq, all coming from this openly less than benevolent nation, is something that cannot be overlooked.

 

“When its leaders are so openly hostile to its neighbors and rewrites history, any rational person can only come to one conclusion. And that is it has hostile intent that goes far beyond the defense of its borders. In fact, no one threatens its borders in spite of all these transgressions, AND NOW THIS!”

 

He slammed the podium with his fist to make his point.

 

“I bear my soul to you and tell you that I AM TERRIFIED, yes terrified for my children and my children’s children as should everyone in this room should Iran’s course of action not come to an end. If unchecked there may very well be no future. It is not the fact that this country possesses WMD’s as much as the leaders who control them. Everyone in this room is being threatened. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CONDEMS THIS ACTION AND ASKS FOR SANCTIONS BY ALL NATIONS TO BEGIN IMMEDIATELY UNTIL THE NUCLEAR THREAT IS REMOVED!”

 

The Assembly jumped to its feet and gave a two minute ovation.

 

When the applause somewhat subsided he continued. “I am hopeful that this can be accomplished within this body and without delay. However my country is committed to this action regardless of the outcome here today. In that end I will immediately use our embassies throughout the world to build a network that will create an effective sanction. We will build a coalition of countries that recognize the dangers that face us and are willing to make the sacrifices that are sure to come. It is not our goal to declare Iran an enemy, but rather to see it come to its senses and become our ally and together we can live in a world that is safer for the generations to come.

 

“I make one last plea to Iran to alter its course and give up its WMD’s. It is not in any danger from us or any of its neighbors. The United States is impressed with a new Iran that holds elections and its leaders reflect the will of its people. I am ready to forget all transgressions and would ask for forgiveness of our own perceived transgressions and begin a new partnership that is founded upon mutual respect and understanding. The past is behind us, we can build our own future from this new beginning. I stand before the world and tell you that I will do every thing I can to reach a peaceful resolve. Our ambassador will meet anywhere, anytime with the leaders of Iran to work this out.

 

“I HAVE A VISON! I have a vision and that is that one day I will be welcomed inside the borders of Iran and sit down with its people in a spirit of brotherhood and love.

 

LET THERE BE PEACE AND BROTHERHOOD!

 

LET US EMBRACE OUR HUMANITY!

 

LET THERE BE PEACE!

 

LET THERE BE PEACE!”

 

The crowd came to its feet and offered a rousing applause while he exited the podium.

~*~

Robinson watched the crowd.

 

They did appear to warm up to the president’s speech. Hopefully he was correct.

 

He accompanied the president on this excursion as he so often did. He imagined the president thought of him as member of his family, and at the very least, a shrewd political advisor that often found incisive answers to diplomatic problems. He was most useful on these excursions to the UN as he understood half a dozen languages: German, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic, and could interpret on-the-spot saving time hunting down professionals to do the job.

 

He did the same for Governor Schwarzenegger years earlier on his jaunts to Mexico and China.

 

There was an attack in Mexico City while the pair was there to tighten up the border in hopes of stopping the illicit drug-trafficking that was running rampant. Robinson could see from the gentleman’s expression that something was wrong and was able to grab his arm before he had gotten off a shot in the hallway of the National Palace. Guards came rushing to disarm the man and it was over in a couple of seconds.

 

“You saved my life.”

 

“I saved my own life. He could have shot me as well.”

 

“You are too modest. He paid little attention to you—that is until you wrestled him to the ground.”

 

“It is the CIA training—like riding a bike. It is something you do not forget easily. I could see it in his eyes.”

 

The words of Carol Turner, his pretty neighbor, echoed in his mind as well. “You saved me Houston.” She had stepped into the street in front of a speeding auto. He pulled her back as it rushed by. He was a kind of mentor to her and he knew she had a crush on him. It was one of those beautiful relationships that never ended, and but for the age difference, and the close family ties, could have blossomed into something more. The years passed and each had gone their separate ways, but the bond was there forever.

 

Houston rushed to the president’s side as they made their way through the crowd. “What do you think?” asked Landenberger.

 

“You did well, Mr. President—as well as can be expected. We live in a political world where deals are made in alleyways and backrooms. This is a power struggle of the highest order and words and diplomacy walk a tightrope. This is the beginning of a long process and one can only hope we have enough support to pull off the sanctions. If not, we are in serious trouble that would very likely end in armed conflict.”

 

“We are going to work every favor and shake every hand. If we need to buy some of them, we will do it. If we do not win this battle one can only wonder where the world will be in a few years.” He looked over the assembly and noted that many were on the phones. “My ambassadors are working all over the world at this very moment to make it happen. Many are on the other end of those conversations.”

 

Mikhail Vissarionovich Dostoevsky, the Russian Foreign Minister, pulled the pair aside. “President Kuznetsov would like to meet with you now. I know this is quite impertinent as arrangements of world leaders are often arranged many months in advance.”

 

“I understand and will meet with him.” Landenberger vigorously shook his hand. “We live in precarious circumstances and a meeting between us at this time is more important than international protocol. Robinson stands with me. Would he be welcome?”

 

“Most certainly; as you wish.”

 

Landenberger introduced Robinson and the pair was led down a labyrinth of hallways surrounded by Federal’naya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti agents and a team of nervous DSS. When they reached a door to the conference room the DSS team leader insisted upon scouting out the room before he would allow Landenberger and Robinson to enter.

 

A half-minute later he opened the door. “Go on in, Mr. President. You understand this was not on the itinerary. I apologize for the delay.”

 

“Wait outside the door with the others. I’m sure we are quite OK.”

 

Inside waited the Russian leader who had ran the streets of Kubchino in Leningrad and lived in a small apartment with two brothers and a sister during his formative years. A graduate of Leningrad State University, he received his law degree in 1998 with a PhD in private law. He soon found himself embedded with gangsters and local corrupt politicians who taught him the dirty side of politics. He moved up quickly and soon found his place as the Leningrad Soviet People’s Deputy as the right hand man to the Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov. After a stint working on an election committee, he ran for office and ended up fronting the Russian federation.

 

He spoke four languages including English. “Welcome, Mr. President!” He embraced Landenberger and Robinson as if they were old college buddies. Landenberger introduced Robinson while Vissarionovich settled in as the forth member.

 

He addressed Robinson. “You remind me of myself a few years back!”

 

“That is kind of you—”

 

“In time you will learn this business of politics and become the president one day.” Robinson smiled. “I assure you I have no aspirations—”

 

“In time my young man—in time.” He laughed. “Now let us get down to business.” He poured steaming coffee into a cup and offered it to Landenberger and then served the others.

 

Landenberger was impressed with the large physically imposing figure of a man, much like a heavy weight wrestler—and the fairly jovial manner was unexpected. He had anticipated that he would not enjoy the company. He was wrong. Impressions can be formulated in a second. Suddenly he looked forward to hearing what the world leader had to say that had brought about this unexpected meeting.

 

“I will not keep you long,” promised the Russian leader. “Everything we discuss here must go no further than these walls.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Certainly you know that my country, the Chinese, and the North Koreans have supplied much to the Iranians for many years and can somewhat accept the blame for the current situation. We needed money to rebuild our country after losing the cold war and we have gone too far. The Iranians are dangerous and threaten us all. Their fanaticism knows no bounds.”

 

“I agree, and can only hope we are both wrong.”

 

“These were not my decisions. I inherit the sins of my fathers, so to speak. I imagine that my predecessors had no intention of bringing this day upon us—however it is now an unfortunate reality with which we must deal.”

 

“One can hope they will soon change the direction—”

 

“We must assume that all the inducements in the world will never sway them and make plans accordingly. I am a student of history and your mention of Mein Kamph struck a chord. Their intentions are clear. I am afraid they intend to wipe Israel off the map and then your ‘Zionist’ country. Of course the attempt to do such a thing amounts to suicide as, in the end, the retaliation would wipe them out.”

 

“And the modern world would cease to exist.”

 

“I am afraid so. They would not care as they would think of it as an opportunity to rebuild a Muslim world and all those who died in the Holocaust as martyrs. They would perpetuate the war until the Zionists were wiped from the face of the earth. Eventually they would come after Russia.”

 

“You called me here today. Do you have a proposal?”

 

“My thoughts are like the wind, you understand, and I am only thinking out loud. My thought is to do little to inflame them.”

 

“The sanctions?”

 

“No, no. The sanctions are civil enough and I applaud you for being so forthright about it. I think they would expect it and that helps to balance the situation. To do nothing is to show weakness and invite aggression. However, our vote to join you would inflame them. They view us as an ally that they would eventually turn on when we had served our purpose. You heard my statements earlier, quite the contrary to your impassioned words.”

 

“Well yes, we all heard you.” His brow furrowed with the memory.

 

“Believe not a word. It is what I needed to say to appear friendly to their cause. I would suggest that you do not press the UN for a vote as the Chinese would vote against it and I would need to do the same. I suppose that you imagined this and simply used the UN platform today to get out your message.”

 

Landenberger remained silent as the Russian leader continued. This is a very intelligent politician.

 

“I propose a secret alliance known only to the four of us; something that cannot be spoken of to others.”

 

“An alliance?” I sense something important—urgent…. His heart pounded wildly against his chest.

 

“Quite simply we would back you up in every way we could without bringing a lot of attention to it. Our oil production is at its peak and we have found new fields in Siberia. We could, for example, provide oil to you in an emergency. If the Supreme Leader decides to retaliate by cutting off oil to you and your allies, we could fill the gap and no one would ever be the wiser. We know Ayatollah will continue to sell the oil as their economy depends upon it. We could begin reducing our shipments to those on the other side, make slight adjustments here and there, all favorable to you and the Western World. We would choose to look neutral while secretly not so much so.”

 

“And what would you ask in return?”

 

“Nothing comes to mind however when among friends one can expect that favors run in both directions. You could think of it as being good business to make this offer to you. We would make money off the transactions.

 

Of course oil can be sold anywhere in the world without any problem. If you want to think of it as a business transaction, which is, we choose to sell it to our friends—our best customers—rather than those who are, shall we say, less friendly.”

 

“What of the EIS?” You have always wanted that to be dismantled? Would that be a favor?”

 

He grinned, leaned forward and whispered. “Yesterday that may have been true.”

 

He fell back in the leather chair and bellowed. “Today is another matter! We are now allies by circumstance. Neither of us has chosen this. We are now bedfellows. This is another ploy to confuse the world. It is best that we appear as unfriendly to one another—at odds—with every turn. It is a chess game with onlookers whom we wish to remain perplexed.”

 

“I don’t know what to say. You are proposing that we are now best of friends. You can’t blame me for being somewhat leery of this proposal.”

 

“It is too much to ask for your response today as this comes from, how you say in USA, from left field. I expect you to be suspicious and would anticipate nothing less. Think it over and get back to me in a few days. Use the hot line and let’s call today’s discussion Operation Checkmate.”

~*~

 

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