Saturday, February 20, 2010

Art Imitates Life -- Again

In a confidential report to be presented to its governing board in March 2010, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will voice its concern that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon. It’s unusual for the IAEA to be so blunt when it comes to the nuclear programs of its member states -- Iran became a member state in 1958.

Japanese lawyer and diplomat, Yukiya Amano, is the new Director General of the IAEA.

Iran's Safeguards Agreement came into effect in May 1974, under which Iran, as party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), agreed to declare its nuclear activities and allow inspections by IAEA inspectors.

Iran has violated its agreement and the subsidiary arrangements associated with it on a number of occasions that we know about. The most recent discovery was the enrichment facility being built near Qom on a mountaintop missile site of the former Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Construction on the secret facility probably started in mid-2006.

Iran’s decades long nuclear weapons development efforts are the backdrop for my novel, The Lion and the Sun. The primary action takes place in 1994, when, believe it or not, we already knew a lot about Iran’s nuclear weapons sites. The latest revelations about the enrichment facility northeast of Qom are not really revelations at all. This was also a period when ‘loose nucs’ in the Former Soviet Union were an urgent concern of the US Intelligence Community. The action in The Lion and the Sun begins with the discovery that a plutonium pit, the key component of a nuclear warhead, is missing from a Russian weapons lab.

There are flash backs in the novel to 1978-79, when the novel’s protagonist, Daniel Conte, a CIA operative, was working under cover as a member of a US Military Assistance Advisory Group. He was lucky to escape being taken hostage during the takeover of the American Embassy by Iranian militants. Not everyone was so lucky, including a young woman Conte recruited as an intelligence asset and with whom he was having an affair. Conte is haunted by the incident.

An epilogue brings the story up to 2008, when Conte discovers the fate of an MI6 agent with whom he worked to thwart the terrorist plot to obtain the nuclear weapons component.

Although on its surface, The Lion and the Sun is a story about espionage, it is really the story about a person beginning to question the sacrifices he’s made in the name of duty, honor, country. It is a story of intrigue, betrayal, and regret set against the threat of nuclear terrorism. It is a story that could be taken from today’s headlines, if only one could read between the lines.

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