The Fist of God

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The Fist of God
TheFistOfGod.jpg
First edition (UK)
Author Frederick Forsyth
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher Bantam Press
Publication date
1994
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
ISBN 0-593-02798-1

The Fist of God is a 1994 suspense novel by British writer Frederick Forsyth, based loosely around the Iraqi Project Babylon and the resulting "supergun".

Featuring a story set during the Persian Gulf War, the novel details an Allied effort to find a suspected Iraqi nuclear weapon. The story features the brothers Mike and Terry Martin who also appear in Forsyth's 2006 novel The Afghan.

Plot[edit]

Dr. Gerald Bull designs a supergun codenamed Project Babylon for Iraq. He believes that it is for launching Arab satellites into space and that it could serve no military purpose because it could fire only once before being located, targeted and destroyed. He comes to discover the true reason only shortly before being assassinated by his paymasters masquerading as Israeli Mossad operatives.

Iraq subsequently invades Kuwait, leading the British and Americans to require top level intelligence on the ground. Major Mike Martin of the Special Air Service is seconded to SIS to work with the Kuwaiti resistance. Not only does Major Martin speak fluent Arabic, but with his black hair and dark complexion, he can practically pass for an Arab. His brother, Terry, an expert in Arab military studies, works with the Medusa Committee, a joint Anglo-American panel on possible Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The CIA does not have any assets in the Iraqi government and the Mossad initially deny they have any active assets in Iraq. However, they are forced later to admit they have an unnamed top agent, codenamed "Jericho", whom they have been paying for information on the Iraqi military through an account in Vienna, but from whom they have not heard since the invasion began. Since Israel is forced to stay out of the war to prevent alienating Arab countries in the Coalition, they agree to let the Americans run Jericho, if they can find him. Mike Martin is recalled from Kuwait and sent into Iraq to run Jericho through a series of dead drops while working a cover job as a house gardener for the Soviet Union's First Secretary to the Soviet Embassy in Bagdad.

The Medusa committee concludes that Iraq's biological weapons capability is not a threat and, despite possessing a plentiful supply of yellowcake, it's had insufficient time with its limited underground centrifuges to spin it out into the weapons-grade uranium to make an atomic bomb. They decide that gas is the real threat, so the Americans make an unequivocal threat to the Iraqi government to retaliate and attack Baghdad with nuclear weapon(s) should gas be used. However, an over-eager American F-15E pilot, frustrated at an aborted bombing run, drops his bomb on a building unlisted on his target list and reconnaissance photographs reveal strange large metal discs underneath the roof. Terry Martin takes the photographs to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to see if they can identify the discs, where a retired Manhattan Project employee identifies the discs as Calutrons (California Cyclotrons), a low-tech solution to refining uranium, ideal for Third World nations wanting to develop their own nuclear capability, and subsequently determines that if Iraq had used them in conjunction with their existing centrifuges, they could have made a nuclear bomb already.

Jericho reveals the location of a factory where such a bomb was put together and it is destroyed; however, he later reports that the weapon had been moved hours prior to a new site, a place called the "Qa'ala" (Fortress). Despite the $5 million already paid to him, Major Martin offers him $3 million more to expose the bomb's new location. The Americans, however, remain highly skeptical because such a bomb would be too heavy to attach to a Scud missile and it couldn't be delivered by a plane since the Coalition would shoot it down, due to their having air supremacy. Iraq's solution, however, is a supergun, hidden in a classified location, designed to fire the atomic weapon, called “The Fist of God”, into Saudi Arabia should the Coalition begin the ground phase of Desert Storm so that approximately 100,000 soldiers die and the radioactive fallout is carried into Iran.

Jericho next reports the cannon's location to be somewhere in the Jebal al-Hamreen mountains in eastern Iraq (after having interrogated the project's lead engineer). Major Martin, who narrowly escapes capture by Iraqi counter-intelligence for transmitting Jericho's messages to his own handlers, decides to leave Iraq. Safely recovered across the border, Mike volunteers to HALO jump with a British SAS team into Iraq to destroy the cannon. The Americans agree to delay the invasion by two days, citing weather conditions as the reason. The SAS squad lases the target and a lone U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle destroys the supergun in a bombing run. General Norman Schwarzkopf is told the mission has been successful and orders the land invasion of Kuwait.

Because of the pressure forced on the Israelis to admit Jericho's existence, the Mossad executes "Operation Joshua", an attempt to infiltrate the Viennese bank holding Jericho's account and seize the money. An agent's seduction of the bank manager's secretary helps the Mossad access and photocopy the details of the Jericho account, allowing Israel to recover the entire reward rendered to Jericho. Edith Hardenberg, the secretary, commits suicide when she realised that her "lover" has used her to obtain the information. Jericho – who turns out to be AMAM director Brigadier Omar "The Tormentor" Khatib – is picked up by Mossad agents masquerading as American intelligence agents. He is flown out of Iraq, drugged, and his body thrown into the sea from 10,000 feet.

Subplots[edit]

Aside from the main plot involving Martin and the Mossad operation in Vienna, there are other subplots that eventually tie themselves into the story. These include a prostitute servicing the commander of Iraq's armoured forces who is also a spy, an Iraqi Air Force pilot and his brother, the chief of Iraq's counter-intelligence, and the USAF pilot who bombs the Iraqi factory. The Iraqi Air Force pilot, his brother, and the Iraqi counter-intelligence head are revealed to be former elementary school classmates of the Martin brothers.

Connection with other Forsyth books[edit]

  • The characters of Fist re-appear or are referenced in two other of Forsyth's novels:
    • Tim Nathanson, the weapons systems officer of the Strike Eagle pilot who bombed the Iraqi factory and the Qa'ala, is the son of top American banker Saul Nathanson. He dies after the climax of the book. The elder Nathanson reflects on his son's death in Icon.
    • The Martin brothers later appear in The Afghan.
  • In his previous novel, The Deceiver, Forsyth depicts the "trial" of a middle-aged S.I.S. operative who is regarded as an anachronistic "menace" by his younger, politicking superior. The operative's private opinion of his superior is that he, and too many others like him in the S.I.S., are over-awed by the C.I.A.'s use of technology (Sigint and satellite photography), and foolishly regard humint (human agents) as a thing of the past. In The Fist of God, Forsyth paints several comical scenes in which the C.I.A. and U.S. military realize that they have enough satellite photos and signal intercepts "to drown in," yet none of it offers any insight into the Iraqis' true intentions, and they begin searching desperately for a way to infiltrate Saddam Hussein's regime with a living agent.
    • In his afterword to The Fist of God, Forsyth makes his point explicit, that humint will always be a necessary part of espionage.

Background[edit]

Set against the backdrop of the Gulf War, the novel features several real-life characters central to the conflict. The assassination of Gerald Bull is implied as having been carried out by the Iraqis, although other sources suggest that in reality the Mossad carried out the operation.

Historical characters[edit]

Americans:

Canadian:

British:

Iraqis:

Israelis:

Critical reception[edit]

The novel received good reviews.

Kirkus Reviews cited the novel has enough material to satisfy espionage thriller fans with its believability about what may have happened behind the scenes of the Gulf War.[1]

People claimed the novel packs "derring-do entertainment with a political message." [2]

Publishers Weekly lauded the novel for using historical facts into a gripping what-if thriller.[3]

References[edit]