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Operation Delilah

Operation Delilah

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Operation Delilah

236 pagine
3 ore
Dec 1, 2017


Operation Delilah is a fast-paced thriller that moves swiftly between Iran, the U.S., Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

General Hashemi, of the Iranian Intelligence Service, seeks to destroy an oil dependent U.S. by stopping oil shipments from Saudi Arabia. A multifaceted plan: it includes a group of American Jihadist attacking U.S. emergency oil reserves, so that when the Saudis embargo oil shipments, the U. S. will have no oil to replace it. To stop those shipments, a rogue CIA hit squad will murder brothers of the Saudi King and plant evidence implicating the U.S. Saudi response will be to stop oil shipments. And finally, to make the oil embargo permanent, Hashemi is to replace the Saudi king with an anti-American cleric. Hashemi expects his success to give the presidency of Iran.

The current president wants another term and has the details of Operation Delilah leaked to the Mossad. Ben Zev, the Mossad in Washington asks Bill Barone, his CIA contact, if a hit squad is headed for the Middle East. Barone discovers that there is a rogue CIA rogue hit squad, headed by John Zephyr, a CIA assassin, and that the squad is in Egypt.

Ben and Barone join forces and head for Egypt.

The destruction of U.S. oil reserves is successful, as is the assassination of the Saudis. The Saudis embargo oil shipments to the U.S. But, the Islamic cleric fails to overthrow the Saudi King due to a falling out among the plotters.

To get the embargo lifted, Ben fabricates a confession naming Hashemi as the man behind the killing of the Saudis. The current president of Iran uses that confession to destroy Hashemi. The Saudis don't believe the confession is genuine. Their price for resuming oil shipments is purge of the CIA. The U.S. president wanting another term complies. Barone is among the effected.
Dec 1, 2017

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Operation Delilah - Ray Knowles


Chapter One

Tehran, Iran

A very annoyed General Hashemi, head of the Iranian Intelligence Service, sat in the anteroom of President Mahmoud Ahmadi’s office, and checked his wristwatch for the third time. He’d been kept waiting forty-five minutes. Interpreting the wait as evidence of disrespect, the general stood up and announced to the president’s secretary, "I’ll come back when the president isn’t so busy.

Don’t go! he replied. The president is ready to see you.

Overweight, gray-haired, with sparkling eyes and a quick smile, President Ahmadi was everyone’s ideal of the gentle grandfather. His greatest joy was traveling around the country, accepting endless bouquets of flowers from little children and rewarding each with a grandfatherly kiss on the forehead.

In decorating his office, the president had retained the imperial symbols favored by the former Shah. The walls were covered in red damask cloth, and the woodwork was overlaid with goldleaf. A look he’d copied from the Shah’s throne room. Over his desk hung a massive, multitiered crystal chandelier. The Persian rugs and the Louis XIV chairs and sofas had been recycled from the Shah’s winter palace.

The huge office meant it was a good forty-foot walk from the entrance to the president’s desk. As Hashemi approached, he looked up at the glistening chandelier and thought, I wonder what it wouldit would take for the it to drop and kill the old bastard?

Ahmadi rose from his chair to greet his intelligence chief, flashing his famous smile. Allah’s peace be upon you, he said.

And upon you, replied Hashemi as he returned an insincere smile.

Ahmadi motioned for his visitor to take the chair in front of his desk.

What brings you to see me? he asked warily, settling into his chair.

I need permission to undertake an international operation, replied Hashemi.

And what will it accomplish?

The US relies heavily on imported oil for much of its energy. It’s their Achilles heel. It gives us the means to destroy their economy.

Ahmadi heaved a sigh of annoyance. Another one of his schemes.

Straightening up to steel himself for the confrontation to come, he addressed Hashemi in a sarcastic tone. Okay, explain to me how you will destroy the great Satan.

Hashemi squelched his irritation at the president’s attitude and answered, Nearly half the oil the US imports comes from Canada and Saudi Arabia. My plan will stop imports from both.

Ahmadi shook his head. America holds huge quantities of oil in its strategic reserves. It can draw on those if you stop oil imports.

True. But I will reduce imports so steeply that those reserves would be quickly depleted.

And how do you propose to stop oil imports from Canada?

The pipelines bringing that oil into the US are vulnerable to attack.

And the Saudis? Ahmadi asked. The king would never agree to reduce oil exports to the US.

I’m going to replace the king with a man who’ll stop selling oil to the US.

Ahmadi’s face slackened in disbelief. Do you expect the Americans to allow you to get rid of their king?

There are people in the US government who believe the king is untrustworthy; they won’t rush to defend him.

      Ahmadi shrugged. It’s not that simple. The king has a defense treaty with the Americans. He’ll ask them to save his throne.

He won’t do that because the CIA will have just assassinated two of his brothers. The king will conclude the Americans have turned against him.

A stunned Ahmadi stared at him in disbelief. The CIA would never do that!

I agree. But I have an agency official already in my employ. He knows of former Navy SEALS and retired CIA personnel who have carried out assassinations in the past. He can recruit a rogue CIA assassination team for us.

Ahmadi shook his head in disbelief, tilted it down, and rested his temples on his fingertips. Without looking up he asked, Have you given your plan a name?

Yes. I call it ‘Operation Delilah.’

After the woman in the Hebrew Bible who weakened Samson by cutting his hair?

Hashemi grinned. Exactly.

An interesting analogy. Samson’s hair and America’s need for oil…

The general waited anxiously for a response. Ahmadi opened his cigarette box, carefully lit a cigarette, and slowly exhaled.

General Hashemi, there are many implications to your proposal that I must consider. I’ll let you know of my decision in due course. Thank you.

From experience Hashemi knew what I’ll let you know really meant. Ahmadi had already decided his answer was no. He just needed time to think of an excuse. It was always no, and Hashemi was tempted to ask why Ahmadi even bothered to have an intelligence service if he had no intension of using it.

With Hashemi gone, Ahmadi considered the potential consequences if the general’s plan were to be successful. He’ll surely use it to convince the Grand Ayatollah that he’s earned the right to be our next president. But I want another term for myself.

Ahmadi recalled the general boasting how he had discovered that his deputy, Major-General Ali Bustani, was importing cheap caviar from Turkmenistan, labeling it as Iranian, and exporting it at a huge markup. And how he enjoyed describing the punishment he had inflicted on Bustani: demotion to colonel, a reduced pension, and exile to Egypt.

Bustani must hate Hashemi as much as I do.

Ahmadi picked up the phone and told his secretary to call Bustani in Cairo.

It’s six o’clock in the morning there, the secretary noted.

I don’t care what time it is: get him the phone.

* * * * * *

General Hashemi’s office was no match for the president’s decor. No red brocade wall covering, no goldleaf on the woodwork. It was a smallish office with pale-green walls and a simple, serviceable wood desk. The room was dominated by a larger-than-life portrait of the Grand Ayatollah himself. The tables at either end of the dark green sofa held hand-tooled leather-bound copies of the Holy Qur’an. The office was that of a modest and devout Muslim–-an image Hashemi cultivated to ensure the Grand Ayatollah would support his eventual bid for the presidency.

His computer’s printer churned out a message from President Ahmadi.

Tehran, 16 October, 10:43

To General Majid Hashemi, Director, Iranian Intelligence Service. Greetings in the name of Allah, the Always Merciful and Compassionate. Your proposal authorized.

Signed: Mahmoud Ahmadi, President, Islamic Republic of Iran

There was no explicit reference to Operation Delilah, but the general clearly had what he wanted: authorization to proceed. He smiled.

The old fart just buried himself.

Hashemi turned to his wall safe, the combination for which was the Grand Ayatollah’s birthday. He took out a computer disk that held the texts of five novels by different authors. He loaded one of the novels onto his computer, along with an encoding program. Once he chose a word, the program would find the page, line, and position of that same word in the text of the novel. It then generated a series of numbers that revealed the location of the word chosen. Unless the recipient knew the novel selected, there was no way to crack the code.

Hashemi sent a coded text to the Kokosian Rug Company in New York City, a front operated by the Iranian Intelligence Service. It sold Persian rugs labeled as Turkish to get around US sanctions.

The store’s owner telephoned Mr. Anaraki, an antiques dealer, and told him his rug had come in.

Within the hour, Anaraki arrived with a disk identical to the one Hashemi used. The word prices in the subject box told him which novel Hashemi was using. After Anaraki’s program decoded the series of numbers, it read:

You are to recruit immediately four American-based jihadists to attack US pipelines.

Alert Ali Salim; need our CIA official to recruit assassination team.

Anaraki replied:

Alerting Salim. Will need to pay mullahs to preach jihad against US. Wire $100,000 to store account.

Hashemi read Anaraki’s reply and grunted. The man never misses an opportunity to demand money.

Chapter Two

Cairo, Egypt

Colonel Ali Bustani called the Israeli embassy and asked to speak to Moshe Levine, the embassy’s fisheries attaché. When Mr. Levine’s secretary asked if he was calling about fisheries, Bustani answered, No. I am a retired Iranian intelligence officer, and I have information of interest to Israel.

Moshe Levine agreed to meet Colonel Bustani in a small park on the island of Zamalek, a well-to-do district of Cairo. Normally, the park was filled with nannies pushing baby carriages along palm tree-shaded paths, but the threat of rain had driven them indoors.

Levine had the park all to himself. Even without the dossier that Uri Kochba, the head of Mossad, had sent him, he would have recognized Colonel Bustani. The man maintained his military bearing even in exile: shoulders back, head high, marching as if he was crossing a parade ground. Levine half expected him to stop, come to attention, and salute.

The martial image collapsed once Bustani sat down, however. The man’s suit, although clean and freshly pressed, was frayed at the cuffs. And he wore one of those cheap watches on sale everywhere in the streets of Cairo. Quite a contrast to Levine’s own bespoke, well-tailored suit; Hermes tie; and matching pocket square.

Levine smiled and asked in a disarming tone, How did you come to choose Cairo? It’s such an expensive place.

It was suggested to me.

You had an excellent career, with every prospect of replacing Hashemi when he retired. Why did you leave?

The question annoyed Bustani. We had a disagreement over policy. We both thought it best I resign.

Levine smiled sympathetically. The man was lying. He knew there had been no policy difference and that Hashemi had fired him because of a fraudulent caviar scheme he was running. Levine wondered idly what had become of all that caviar.

Still, Cairo can be a wonderful place to live. Where are you staying?

Out by the airport.

Levine knew the area; it was a poor section of Cairo, home to mostly low-level government workers and shop assistants.

I like this town, but I need someone to enjoy it with. Are you alone? Levine asked.

I have a lady friend. She’s my neighbor. In the evening when she comes home from work, we share a coffee at a café. And we go for walks and take in a movie. We both like the arrangement.

What’s her name?

Zahra Zabari.

Sounds Iranian.

Bustani’s eyes flashed with annoyance. That’s enough about me! I came to talk business.

My secretary tells me you have information for us.

Yes. It would be of interest to Israel and the United States.

So what is it that you want to give me?

Bustani snorted. I’m not giving you anything. I expect to be paid.

Levine raised an eyebrow. Given our extensive contacts, we probably already have whatever you’re peddling. And we probably got it for free.

What I have, you don’t have.

Tell me what it is. Then we can talk about its worth to us.

Bustani studied Levine for a reaction as he revealed samples of the information he expected to sell. I have the details of an upcoming assassination attempt that could affect Israel’s security. I have the names of Iran’s network of spies in Europe. I’m sure you’d also be interested in the sexual appetites of our politicians and our ayatollahs. And I also have the codebooks Hashemi uses. It’s all grade-A material, and no one else has it.

Levine maintained his neutral expression.

Look, it’s essential that we trust each other. I need more information so I can give you a good price.

Bustani hesitated, then cautiously added: The assassination will be by a CIA hit squad, here in Egypt.

And who is the target of this assassination?

That was the one piece of information he didn’t have. Still, he dribbled out a morsel to entice Levine. The targets are non-Egyptians…

Levine showed no visible reaction to Bustani’s enticement. He merely stood up and smiled. Of course, I need to confirm that we don’t have your information before we pay. My secretary will contact you if we need to meet again.

Levine left Bustani sitting there. As he walked away, he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and took out a miniature voice recorder. Levine listened briefly to what the microphone had picked up. He had a clear recording of everything Bustani had said.

Bustani smiled as Levine walked away. He’ll be back once he finds out the stuff I have is all top grade and no one else has it. And then he’ll pay.

* * * * * *

The Mossad surveillance team had been tailing Bustani, so they knew his routine. Each evening he joined his girlfriend, Zahra, at a sidewalk café just down the street from their apartment building. From their smiles and their occasional touches, it was obvious to the team there was more to their relationship than just a cup of coffee.

This evening, Zahra sat in her usual place at the sidewalk café and gazed longingly in the direction from which Bustani usually came. She checked her watch. He was late. What’s keeping him?

Zahra looked around. The café was empty except for herself and a young woman at a nearby table.

Zahra noticed the woman’s brow was creased with worry. She looked like she needed to talk to someone. Forgetting her own problems, Zahra smiled sympathetically.

The young woman weakly returned the smile and asked if she could join her.

Zahra anxiously checked her watch. I’m expecting my friend, but if you’d like, we can talk until he arrives.

She introduced herself as Fatima and sat down.

You look so unhappy, observed Zahra.

I’m sorry. I need some advice. It’s my boyfriend. I don’t know what to do.

Zahra gave a compassionate nod. At your age, I assume the problem is sex?

Fatima’s surprised facial expression revealed that Zahra had guessed correctly.

He wants to get married now, but I told him I want to finish my training as a doctor. He’s proposed we sleep together. My mother says if he loves me, he’ll wait. But I love him and don’t want to lose him to another woman.

I agree with your mother, Zahra declared firmly. If he truly loves you, he’ll respect your decision.

Fatima’s smiling eyes said thank you for the advice.

Zahra sensed in this total stranger someone in whom she could confide. Funny. I must be twice your age but even at my age, sex is a problem. My boyfriend and I are too old to want a family, but not too old to create one. I’m pregnant.

With her confession, Zahra felt the weight of her burden lifted from her shoulders. It was instantly replaced by a feeling of lightness.

Instinctively, Fatima reached out and put an understanding hand on top of Zahra’s. Do you want an abortion?

Yes, but neither one of us has the money for it.

Then you must pray. Allah, who is always merciful and compassionate, answers our prayers if our request is just.

The heaviness of the burden that only moments ago had been lifted off Zahra’s shoulders just as quickly returned at Fatima’s suggestion that her only recourse was prayer. But then she saw Bustani hurrying toward her, and she felt the burden being lifted again. She smiled. Here comes my friend now.

Taking the hint, Fatima got up and hurried off.

Fatima later bragged to her boss, Moshe Levine, that her role as the love-saddened young woman seeking advice from an older woman had been one of her best performances.      

Levine was not interested in Fatima’s acting skills. But he did have a use for the information she’d obtained.

* * * * * *

Bustani interpreted Levine’s personal call to mean that Mossad had decided to pay for his information. Overjoyed, he told Zahra their financial problems would soon be over.

The men agreed to meet on Zamalek Island on the same park bench where they’d met before. Bustani recognized Levine from a distance. In contrast to their prior meeting, where the man had worn a custom-tailored dark blue suit and matching tie, this time he wore an equally fine dark brown suit. Bustani wondered how many expensive suits the man owned? Whatever the number, it surely means he can afford to pay me a lot for my information.

Levine arrived, smiled, sat down, and got right to the point. I understand you need money for Zahra’s abortion.

Stunned, Bustani burst out, Who told you that?

That doesn’t matter. I’m prepared to pay for her abortion.

And what’s it going to cost me?

I want the details of the CIA assassination and Hashemi’s codebooks.

"That doesn’t leave me with

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