President Jack West is sitting in his red leather chair in the oval office, reading the file marked “Confidential” on his desk. Two star spangled banners flag him either side, blocking the light from the sun.
In front of the desk, sitting on beige settees around the Presidential coffee table are Secretary of State Jim Albright, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs John Mahoy, Defence Secretary Evan Richards and Vice President Jill Tufty, all of whom have their heads bowed in silence.
Behind the settees, standing in anticipation are the President’s brother, Attorney General Kevin West, Secretary of the Interior Red Harrison, Chief of Naval Operations Michael Dwight and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force David Jackson.
No one dares interrupt the President while he’s reading.
The President turns his head over his left shoulder to get a glimpse of the setting afternoon sun out of the bay windows, stands up, which causes everyone else to stand up, holds the papers high above his head and then thrashes them down on his desk.
“Who the hell told the Israelis to bomb the Fars Province in Southern Iran? I told them to take out the targets down the strait of the Caspian Sea in Northern Iran and keep the hell away from the Persian Gulf! The Iranian mullahs are already threatening to suppress the Revolutionary Guard in Mashad and now I’m gonna have the Saudis breathing down my neck telling me that my attack dogs are playing in their backyard.”
“Mr. President,” says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs John Mahoy from his standing position, “according to our intelligence, the Israelis couldn’t have bombed the Fars Province as their nearest UH-60 Blackhawks were located 150km away flying over Chabahar. The Israelis have also denied any involvement.”
“Well then,” says President West, “who in G-d’s name is bombing the Southern Coast of Iran?”
“We believe,” says Chief of Staff of the US Air Force David Jackson, walking towards the President and standing over the map of the Middle East resting on his desk, “that the F-15 Eagles that launched the strike came from here in Rumah, 20km north of Riyadh.” As he said this, he pointed his finger towards the Saudi Arabian capital.
“You mean to tell me that the Saudis have now broken their détente with Iran and are firing at their air bases? This is a shitstorm.”
The President then sits, causing Albright, Mahoy, Richards and Tufty to sit back down on the settees. The other four advisers remain standing, including Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force David Jackson, who remains by the President’s side.
“Well actually, Mr. President, if I may interject,” says Defence Secretary Evan Richards, “we believe it’s worse than that. According to our boys on the ground in Riyadh, the air strike wasn’t ordered by King Salman, who we have reason to suspect has lost control of the House of Saud, and instead it was ordered by his half-brother King Omar, who is seeking to support the Revolutionary Guard in overthrowing the Iranian leadership.”
“But if that happens,” says Vice President Jill Tufty, now looking visibly disturbed, “then we’ll lose our only ally in Saudi Arabia and Iran will escalate into a civil war. Mr. President, we cannot allow that to happen.”
“It’s not just a civil war that we have to prevent, Mr. President”, says Chief of Staff of the US Air Force David Jackson, “we are picking up intel from our airborne early warning control team that there is a high level of uranium radiation coming from the Al-Qad airbase in the Fars Province. We believe that’s where the Iranians have been developing the nuclear bomb. If the Saudis keep firing at it, they could hit the uranium and wipe out half of southern Iran. If they don’t and the Revolutionary Guard take over, then for the first time in history, I’m afraid, terrorists will have the bomb.”
The room falls silent as the word “bomb” lingers in the stuffy air.
“Yes, Mr. President.”
“What do you recommend we do?”
“Well, Mr. President, you have two options,” says Defence Secretary Jim Albright, “both of which are high risk, neither of which will provide long term stability. One, we could position our F1 Hornet aircrafts down the East Coast of the Persian Sea and create a de facto no fly zone over the region. This will prevent the Saudis from firing at the Iranian nuclear arsenal, but it will also give the Revolutionary Guard cover and allow them take Fars Province and get hold of the bomb.”
“Ok, and what’s the second option?” says the President.
“Well the second option, Mr. President, is that you dispatch 3,000 US troops into Fars Province to fight alongside the Iranians to overthrow the Revolutionary Guard. The problem with that option is that, one, some of our boys will inevitably get killed; two, we’ll be helping to keep the Iranian leadership in power, even though we now know they’ve broken international law by developing a nuclear bomb; and three, if King Omar declares war on Tehran, we’ll be committed to fight alongside the Iranians in a now nuclear war that could last a generation.”
Attorney General Kevin West stands up and faces the Defence Secretary, his voice slightly cracking as he speaks. “But what if we created the no fly zone and at the same time told the Iranian mullahs they we know they have the bomb and order them to de-nuclearize, won’t that calm the situation?”
“Well actually, no,” says Jim Albright, holding the attention of everyone in the room, “the issue here is that our airborne early warning planes were never meant to be spying on Iran so we can’t admit to the Iranians that we know they have the bomb without creating a diplomatic crisis. If that were to happen, they’ll demand we remove our fighter jets from the Persian Gulf and we’ll be out of the game.”
“So you’re telling me that our only options,” says President West, who can now feel half moons of sweat form under his armpits, “are risk nuclear Armageddon or chance our hand that the entire Middle East will fall apart like a pack of cards and hope the pieces all land in the right place?”
“Unfortunately, Mr. President,” says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs John Mahoy, “that’s the situation as we see it. And we need to make a decision in the next 12 hours before the Sun rises again over the Gulf as then it will be too late to fly our F1s in undetected.”
President West stands up from his chair, causing everyone to stand up, and walks over to the glass door that leads onto the Rose Garden. He pushes the door open and let’s the afternoon air brush against his face. He then walks in silence past his security file into the garden and stands looking out onto the great blood red dome of the late day sky. He breathes in the peaceful air and although he wants to see the beautiful roses that adorn the lush green paradise, all he can see are the thorns.