Damascus Countdown
had little doubt they would be soon. These dictators needed to be toppled. Their people needed to be liberated. But it was going to take an act of God, David realized. Forclearly the U.S. government was no longer in the business of regime change.
    David’s phone rang. His pulse quickened. Perhaps it was Birjandi or Rashidi. But then, to his surprise, he found himself wishing most that it was Marseille. And yet how could it be? She didn’t know this number, and he knew Langley wouldn’t let an unauthorized call from the States come through to his phone anyway. Unless, perhaps, it was his dad.
    David read the caller ID. His heart sank. It wasn’t any of his contacts calling him back with a new lead, or Marseille or his father. It was Zalinsky at Langley. He took a break from his run to catch his breath and answer the call.
    “Hey.”
    “Hey—are we secure?” his handler asked.
    “Absolutely. What have you got?” David wondered if his voice betrayed the level of anxiety he now felt.
    “We’ve intercepted a call from the Iranian high command,” Zalinsky began. “It’s not good.”
    “What?” David pressed. “What is it?”
    Zalinsky paused. He seemed to be steeling himself for the conversation to come. David scanned the street around him. There were few people out and no one who looked suspicious. He looked behind him but saw no one following. Taking a deep breath, he braced himself for whatever was coming next.
    “The Israelis missed two of the warheads,” Zalinsky said finally. “They seem to have gotten the rest, but they’ve missed two. How, I don’t know. But they’re out there somewhere, and we don’t know where. And that’s why I’m calling. The president is directing you to find both warheads fast and help us take them out before it’s too late.”

8
    TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
    “We have a missile launch,” shouted the IDF watch commander. “Missile in the air—no, make that two Shahab-3s—just launched out of Tabriz.”
    Five stories beneath the heavily fortified Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv, in a high-tech war room whose walls were lined with large-screen plasma computer screens and TV monitors, Defense Minister Levi Shimon looked up from a sheaf of briefing papers and scanned for the correct images. When he found them—stunning satellite images from the Ofek-9 spy satellite in geosynchronous orbit six hundred kilometers over northern Iran—his stomach tightened.
    “Estimated targets?” he demanded.
    “Looks like Haifa and Jerusalem, sir, but we’ll know more in a minute.”
    Levi Shimon didn’t have a minute.
    His country was being pummeled. Hundreds of Hezbollah rockets were being fired out of south Lebanon every hour. Dozens more rockets were being fired by Hamas out of Gaza. Israel’s missile defense systems were cutting down 75 to 80 percent of the incoming, but the sheer volume of rockets made it impossible to stop them all. Most of the inbounds had no targeting systems. But some of the more advanced rockets did. The problem was, the IDF commanders had no way to determine which were which.
    Schools were being hit. Apartment buildings and hospitals were being hit as well. Synagogues and shopping centers were being decimated, along with power stations and cell towers. Millions of Israelis had been forcedinto bomb shelters. All flights into and out of Ben Gurion International Airport had been canceled. Nearly a third of the country was suffering blackouts. No lights. No heat. No TV. No computers. No power whatsoever. More than three-quarters of the country had no mobile phone coverage. Worse, the death toll was spiraling. Over the past three days, nearly five hundred Israeli citizens had been killed. The casualties of the past twenty-four hours had been the worst—triple the rate of days one and two of the war. The number of injured was ten times that. Israeli hospitals were at their breaking point, and there was no end in sight.
    But the rockets were the least of

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