Richard Clarke's 'The Scorpion's Gate'

"Will King Hamad fall for that, Brian?" asked Currier's chief of staff, Pamela Braithwaite, who had been chief of staff for three directors of SIS.

"Not bloody likely, Pam. They're a savvy group here. They may be close to the Americans, but they can and do think for themselves." Douglas leaned back, running his fingers through his unkempt hair and adjusting the bandage. "I think what we have here is the opening of a new terror wave in Bahrain, controlled by Tehran. And remember," Douglas continued as he glanced at some papers that his deputy slid in front of him, "the Shi'a are in the majority here, even though the king's government is largely Sunni. Iran has seen that as a potential weakness here for years. Failed every time they tried to exploit it, but haven't given up."

Douglas saw his nemesis, SIS Middle East Division Chief Roddy Touraine, lean into the camera's frame of view. "With all deference to our heroic and, I see, bloodied station chief, I think in the thick of it, as it were, Director, that he overlooks the obvious. This is not an Iranian attack. It comes across the causeway from Saudi. The Riyadh crowd wants to make sure King Hamad doesn't let the Yanks use this little island as a base for operations against their fledgling little caliphate."

"Whoever it is, Director," Douglas responded, his face reddening, "we will give all assistance to the king here, but we shall not be alone in that. The Americans won't abandon this place. The little Gulf states are all that they have left after the fall of the House of Saud and the creation of Islamyah, coming right after their pullout from Iraq. The Yanks are like sandwich meat spread thin onto the Gulfies between two very big hunks of hostile bread, Iran and Islamyah."

In London, Barbara Currier shook her head in sadness. "Kicked out of Iran in '79, politely pushed out of Saudi in '03, invited to leave Iraq by their Frankenstein in '06. Then the fall of the al Sauds last year. Now they are just hanging on in the region, with only the little guys to help them: Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the Emirates, Oman. And how long can they hang on there? Sic transit gloria imperi. Just ask us." She paused at a noise coming from the Bahrain end of the conference call. "What was that?"

A long, low rumble shook the bubble room in Bahrain. The exhaust fans seemed to cough. From London, Currier could see on her flat screen that someone who had just entered the room in Bahrain was bending over Brian Douglas, whispering something. Douglas had his hand over the microphone. He spoke briefly to those around him, and then he looked back up at the camera.

"The attack on the Diplomat was not a one-off, Director. The noise that you just heard was the sound of the Crowne Plaza, down the street from the Diplomat, pancaking."

Reprinted from "The Scorpion's Gate" by Richard A. Clarke, by arrangement with G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2005 by RAC Enterprises, Inc.

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