Happy New Year, readers and friends. Between journalism by day and fiction-writing by night, I haven’t had much time for posts recently. I hope to pick up the pace in 2020. For the moment, I thought I would venture into the zone where fact and fiction converge (one of my favorite zones). I’d like to share two items that come to mind because of recent events related to Iraq and Iran.
The first is an article I wrote in 2012 about Iranian intelligence and terror networks around the world, and the nature and nuances of the threat they pose. I thought it might offer some useful context and background as we enter a period of geopolitical tension and uncertainty.
The second is an excerpt from my novel The Convert’s Song. (For those who haven’t read the novel: spoiler alert!) The Convert’s Song was published in 2014. I think it’s fair to say there’s some resonance with the remarkable story of the death last week of General Soleimani of the Iranian Quds Force…
“Pescatore had spent hours reading and listening to briefings about the brigadier. The combined might of several spy agencies had produced few pictures. None was more recent than the photo in Bolivia six years before. Ali was fifty-three now. His shoulders and neck were meaty and powerful in a collarless shirt of gray silk. He had a slight and solid belly. His short, well-groomed beard had acquired tinges of gray. His hairline had receded farther, a narrow rampart cresting above the middle of his forehead. He had thin hard lips bracketed by indented lines descending from his nostrils. He wore a designer watch. When he stared intently, he lowered his narrow chin, raised his eyes, and tilted his head—the coiled pose of a world-class chess grand master who played on a board piled with corpses and cash. A high-rolling gangster general.”
The three of them sat down at a table. There were plastic cups and a large bottle of water. Pescatore drank like a man who had been crawling through the desert. They were sitting and drinking in silence when they heard an explosion in the distance. They felt it too: a low resounding thump.
Pescatore closed his eyes.
“Hel-lo,” Malone said.
“Hello, Hellfire,” Stockton said.
Pescatore opened his eyes. Malone and Stockton bumped fists. Malone extended his arm across the table. Mechanically, Pescatore bumped the big fist.
On the edge of the city, a plume of smoke rose toward the sun.
The planners had counted on the fact that the Quds Force simply did not believe the U.S. government would do a drone strike in Baghdad. Too politically delicate, too diplomatically volatile. Although the Iranians were correct in theory, Brigadier Ali was a special case. He had crossed too many red lines. Washington had decided to send a message. If the Iraqis and the Iranians didn’t like it, tough shit.”