Friday, March 9, 2012

The Lion and the Sun -- An Excerpt

In this excerpt from the novel, The Lion and the Sun, Anatoly Balakirev, a Russian intelligence agent, who is working with Daniel Conte, an American intelligence agent, describes his meeting with the head of Iran's nuclear program. The action takes place in Tehran in 1994.

“So, Anatoly, you flew to Tehran Wednesday?”
“Late Wednesday night. We met with Director of Atomic Energy Research Division, Thursday morning, Dr. Nozar Aganazadeh. You know him?”
“I know of him. Never met the man. Who was with you?”
“Yousef Arbrogati and Wolfgang Hemming, the other two inspectors sent by Mr. Protopopov.”
“Just the three of you? I thought he was sending four inspectors.”
Balakirev waved a hand dismissively. “Malek Garlut came down with stomach flu and couldn’t make it. In any case, three was enough.”
Balakirev smiled. Conte knew Garlut. The team was better off without him.
Balakirev ran his fingers through his hair. He looked tired, but animated, and a little drunk. “Dr. Aganazadeh wanted to show that he was well connected with the Agency before getting down to business. He started by giving a little speech. I have committed to memory one of his most precious pronouncements.”
Balakirev stood straight and threw out his chest attempting, it appeared, to look directorial. “Gentlemen, let me just say, if you will, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has always condemned the possession of weapons of mass destruction. Our Islamic tents… Tents?”
“Tenets,” Conte said.
“Okay, ten-ents.” Balakirev put his hands out, palms up. “Then he says, our beliefs, and human affinity turn us away from such pursuits. When you have grown to know us better, you and your organization, you will see that our nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Inshallah.”
Conte laughed.
Balakirev momentarily basked in the glow of his own unreserved appreciation for his performance. Then he went on to describe his protracted negotiations with Aganazadeh over the team’s intention to inspect the Tehran Nuclear Research Center and the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories located at TNRC -- laboratories that had not been declared by Iran.
Balakirev described the inspection that he and his team performed in the afternoon. “We examined the small research reactor originally supplied by the United States, I believe?”
He looked at Conte. Balakirev knew the answer, but was intent on making a point.
“Yeah, we put it in there in 1967,” Conte confirmed.
Balakirev smiled. “And you know it has been converted to burn 20 percent enriched uranium?”
“And could produce up to 600 grams of plutonium per year in its spent fuel?”
“Yes, again.”
Balakirev gave Conte an ironic look. See what you did, he seemed to be implying.

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