Targets of Opportunity

Targets of Opportunity by Jeffrey Stephens Read Free Book Online

Book: Targets of Opportunity by Jeffrey Stephens Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeffrey Stephens
showed his white teeth in a grim smile. “That may be a false presumption. I am fairly certain that the man who provided this information, Seyed Asghari, has been removed, and I was the only one to whom he reported.”
    Byrnes and Sandor shared another quick glance. “Removed by you?” Sandor asked.
    “Of course not. I would have been happy to learn more from him as things moved forward but, unfortunately, time became extremely limited. Given the events that followed our meeting, I am certain Seyed is gone.”
    Byrnes gave one of his thin-lipped looks of disapproval. “Before he was liquidated, what makes you think they didn’t force him to reveal the name of the person to whom he was passing information?”
    Jaber grinned again. “Naturally, Mr. Byrnes, I have proceeded on the supposition that he was coerced into divulging precisely that. Which is why an attempt on my life was made and which is why, as a result of the ensuing explosion at my home, I am presumed dead by one and all. At least for the time being.”
    “Which is also why,” Sandor continued the thought, “you are here.”
    “As I said earlier, I have a personal reason for this defection. The motive, simply put, is that as long as I am believed dead and given a new identity, I can live out my years without fear of reprisal. If, however, it is learned that I am still alive, well, as you can imagine, that would be remarkably inconvenient for at least two governments.”
    “Not to mention the IRGC.”
    “Precisely.”
    “And the members of your family still in Iran.”
    Jaber conceded that point with a slow nod of his head. “Their safety is only secured at the moment by the belief that I am dead.”
    “All of which means you are not really a defector.”
    “Alas, in the technical sense, I must confess this is true. I concede that I have not suffered a change of heart or a shift in my allegiances.” Jaber smiled pleasantly. “Think of me instead as someone with information he is willing to trade in exchange for safe harbor.”

CHAPTER SIX

    AN ESTATE OUTSIDE LANGLEY, VIRGINIA

    S ANDOR AND B YRNES returned to the sanctuary of the smaller room for a private discussion. Although the entire mansion was regularly swept for audio bugs and surveillance devices, these soundproof spaces provided an additional measure of security.
    “He’s a liar,” Sandor said as soon as the Deputy Director shut the door behind them.
    Byrnes turned. They were standing face-to-face. “To what end?”
    “I haven’t figured that out yet.”
    “You don’t really believe he surrendered to us, put himself in our hands, merely to send us on some wild-goose chase.”
    “I’m not sure.”
    “Intelligence reports and satellite photos have confirmed the explosion in his neighborhood in Tehran. It was his house.”
    “What about his story about the informant, this Seyed who reported to him?”
    “Nothing on him yet. We have only the sketchiest intel on Seyed Asghari. A bit player. Nothing to indicate that he’s dead or that he’s involved in plans for an attack.”
    Sandor shook his head. “Something about this just doesn’t feel right. He’s lying. Or at the very least he’s holding out on us.”
    “I completely agree, at least with the latter view,” the DD replied calmly, “but if what he says is even half true, we need to track this lead as far as it takes us.”
    “I know,” Sandor grudgingly admitted.
    “If Iran is working with North Korea, it takes things to an entirely different level. The worst-kept secret in the Middle East has been Kim’s attempt to clone their Yongbyon nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert. If they’re getting in bed with Iran, we’re no longer discussing the militant subcultures of Al Qaeda or the IRGC.”
    “Come on,” Sandor said. “You want to discuss poorly kept secrets, how about the fact that the IRGC is really state sponsored.”
    “Of course. But in the past few years we’ve avoided a worldwide catastrophe by

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