When I first began the research for The Third Target in 2013, I had never heard of the Islamic State. It’s still hard to process how many people ISIS has killed and what a huge global story they have become since then.
I knew I wanted to write a story about the threat Radical Islam poses not only to the U.S., Israel and the West but also to our moderate Arab/Muslim allies in the Middle East, and to Arab Christians in the region. I knew I wanted my main character to be a New York Times foreign correspondent who sees a grave new threat coming up over the horizon. I also knew I wanted to write about a serious and believable enemy. I just didn’t know which one it should be.
To determine that, as I began to sketch out my outline in early, 2013 I posed several questions:
- What if Radical Islamic extremists were able to seize control of a cache of chemical weapons in Syria that were overlooked or not reported to the U.N. disarmament teams?
- Which terrorist group would be in a position to do that?
- What would they do with such weapons of mass destruction once they grabbed hold of them?
- Who might they use such weapons against?
- And how might the powers in the region and the international community respond?
As part of the research process I undertook for this novel, I had the opportunity to sit down with two former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency; the current Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Interior Minister of Jordan; a former head of the Mossad in Israel; and other political, military and intelligence officials and Mideast experts.
One by one, they pointed me to the real and rising threat posed by a group once known as “Al Qaeda In Iraq” (AQI), that was morphing into “ISIS,” and has more recently become known as the “Islamic State” (IS).
Though while I was writing the novel President Obama told a reporter ISIS was not a serious threat — that it was merely a “JV” team, my research suggested otherwise.
This is why I made ISIS — and their apocalyptic, genocidal ambitions — the central focus on the novel.
As the novel has now released in North America in paperback, I want to say a special word of thanks to everyone who made time for me and shared with me their perspective as I did research for this book. Not everyone I met and spoke with will agree with what I have written in The Third Target. Nevertheless, I am enormously grateful for their insights, wisdom and kindness, and I hope the book is far more interesting for what I learned from them.
Among those to whom I would like to express my deep gratitude:
- His Excellency Abdullah Ensour, Jordan’s Prime Minister
- His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad, senior advisor to His Majesty King Abdullah II
- H.E. Nasser Judeh, Jordan’s Foreign Minister
- H.E. Hussein Hazza’ Al-Majali, Jordan’s Interior Minister
- H.E. Nidal Qatamin, Jordan’s Minister of Labor & Tourism
- H.E. Alia Bouran, Jordan’s Ambassador to the U.S.
- James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency
- Porter Goss, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency
- Danny Yatom, former director of the Mossad
- Hon. Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
- Yechiel Horev, former Israeli director of security of the Defense Establishment
- Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
I’m also deeply grateful for the aides, advisors and colleagues of those mentioned above who were so generous with their time and insights. There are others who were enormously helpful that I am not able to mention publicly. To them, as well, I say thank you.
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