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The Shining Crescent

by Lou Antonelli

Part 1 appears
in this issue.


Dr. Jarif walked through the front doors, followed by Dr. Al-Mousherji, Ulrich, and a half dozen Iranian officials. Dr. Jarif walked up to the podium, and pulled some hand-written notes from his shirt pocket.

“The leadership of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization has been in intensive talks with a deputation from the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he began.

Hundreds of cameras clicked and whirred.

“Their delegates, Herr Ulrich and Dr. Al-Mousherji, have expressed the concern on behalf of the world community over our enrichment program. While we resent intrusion into our sovereign national affairs, the delegates have come to us with honest intentions and open hands. After thoughtful consideration, we agreed to supply them with an accounting of the materials.”

Dr. Al-Mousherji harrumphed, and Jarif looked over his shoulder. “I think the gentlemen from the IAEA can best express their findings.”

Jarif stepped back as Ulrich walked up to the podium. “As Dr. Jarif said, we have a much better accounting now of the AEO’s enriched materials, and we have suggested that the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to both establish greater transparency as well as start construction of some long-planned facilities that will use the enriched material as fuel. For the more technical explanation, I turn you over to Dr. Al-Mousherji.

Dr. Al-Mousherji stepped up as Ulrich stepped back and next to Jarif. “The Iranian AEO has always had long-range plans to build two Multi-Stage Flash nuclear powered desalination plants flanking the Bushehr reactor. Their enrichment production has reflected that long-range goal.”

He reached into the packet he was carrying. “The IAEA has agreed to help update these original plans,” he said as he pulled out the old yellowed folder. “With the latest technology, these plants will great a greater production than anything dreamed of forty years ago, and even to be used as energy co-generation backup facilities when the main plant is taken off line for maintenance.”

“Or bombed into glowing slag by Tel Aviv,” wisecracked someone with a French accent deep in the throng of journalists.

“Herr Ulrich,” shouted a pushy American in front, “has the AEO accounted for all its fissile material?”

Ulrich stepped forward. “We are satisfied all the enriched material has been accounted for.”

“But what about the fissile material?” the American persisted. Ulrich ignored him.

“We will have a joint summit in Vienna in six months, hosted by the IAEA, with the AEO as well as the atomic energy organizations from all member states of the Arab League,” said Ulrich. “ We intend to start a regional authority to start full-scale construction of these plants.”

Dr. Al-Mousherji stepped forward and stood next to Ulrich, after giving Jarif a strong look. “Iran already has its enriched fuel ready, and can participate immediately. We anticipate building at least a dozen plants to supplement the desalination plants already operating in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the U.A.E., as well as Israel. We have asked Israel to voluntarily join this regional project.”

Dr. Al-Mousherji half turned towards Jarif, then turned back. “The Middle East needs a greater supply of potable water. Using the most up-to-date multi-stage flash technology allows us to construct these engineering water oases to put the growing stockpile of enriched fuel to its proper use. This is a goal that will benefit Iran, Israel, and all their neighbors.”

Dr. Al-Mousherji paused and realized the audience was silent in rapt attention. A thick Irish brogue rang out from a journalist. “That’s a fookin’ brillyant idea!”

Dr. Al-Mousherji laughed as the tumult resumed. He winked at his companion.

* * *

Ulrich rose and looked around the delegates to the conference. He tapped a water glass. “Gentlemen and lady,” he said as he nodded to the representative from Syria, “as we wrap up this inaugural conference for the Greater Masgriq Regional Water Planning Authority, I would like our Executive Director, Dr. Shahid Al-Mousherji, to review the plans and speak about the plants to be constructed.”

Dr. Al-Mousherji stood up and went over to an old-fashioned white dry-erase board propped up on an easel. He began to make a few swift strokes with a bright blue marker.

“Please excuse me, but I am a very hands-on person,” he said, as he very deftly outlined a relatively accurate map of the Middle East. He was a skilled amateur graphic artist and drawing maps freehand was a trick he had used before at other conferences to draw attention.

In a minute he had completed the map, and then he switched to a red marker and began to draw dark circles. “As you can see, we have an excellent set of facilities ready for construction, from Bushehr in the east to Gaza, Aqaba and Al-Daab in Gaza, Israel and Egypt, and then up the coast to Jordan and finally on the Black Sea in Turkey.”

He stepped back. “Your first reaction might be to connect the dots, but I see it more as a cradle. Just as the Middle East was the cradle of world civilization, I see the regional water planning authority as a cradle for the peaceful development of vital water resources.”

He waved his hand in an attempt to make a dynamic swoosh on the dry erase board, but his hand was sweaty and the marker went flying off towards a wall.

“Blast,” muttered Dr. Al-Mousherji. He knitted his brow.

An IAEA aide reached over and handed him another marker, a broad-tipped one. Dr. Al-Mousherji reached out and made his cradling swoosh.

It didn’t come out as he intended. He was a bit taken aback, the marker was a saturated silver color. But he pressed on with the thick side of the tip.

He started too light, then pressed harder, and then let up on the upward swing. It was somewhat lopsided, too. Dr. Al-Mousherji stepped aside and sighed. He tossed the marker on the table in front of him.

“Well, so much for visual aids,” he said as he looked at the delegates. They all stared past him.

He looked behind him and took a step back. He had drawn a perfect, flawless silver crescent.

“Well, I didn’t quite intend this to look that good,” he said, “but let this be a symbol for our new project, a shining crescent of fresh, life-giving water.”

The delegates broke out in spontaneous applause. He sat back down next to Ulrich.

“Did you plan that?” the German asked.

“No, but I’ll take credit for it,” said Dr. Al-Mousherji.

* * *

The dark-haired teenager looked down the coastline. Two desalination plants close to the water drew in Persian Gulf water. Behind them sat the Bushehr power plant.

The young man turned to the white-haired man next to him. “Yes, I remember this place, Papa; you took me here, I collected sea shells. How old was I then?”

“You were four, Husnain. That was 14 years ago. Back then, these plants were just a dream I had,” said Shahid.

“It’s amazing to see these plants standing here now,” said Husnain. “A hundred thousand cubic meters of fresh water per day, each.”

“These and the ones at Aqaba, El-Daaba, Tyre and Gaza are only the start,” said Shahid, “We should build a dozen more in the next twenty years, in Algeria, Turkey and Libya. In addition to the water, it has done wonders for employment, especially in Gaza and Jordan. And now the cheap water is helping economic development.”

“Are these plants still running on the enriched fuel made by the Iranians when they planned to bomb Israel?”

His father nodded.

“Your multi-stage flash design was critical to make it happen, Papa, it was so elegant,” said Husnain.

“I simply took the latest and most energy efficient designs for power generation, and pulled out the power components,” said Shahid. “Instead of using the steam to power turbines, I made steam the end product.”

“Still, no one had thought of it before, or made it work,” said Husnain. “A design where a 1,000-megawatt plant could generate a hundred thousand cubic feet of fresh water a day.”

“My greatest feat was coming here in 2020 with Dieter Ulrich and giving Iran a way to save face over its nuclear stockpile by announcing this project,” said Shahid. “We were on the brink of nuclear annihilation.”

Husnain furrowed his brow. “Then I was with you? That’s when I played on the beach?”

Shahid nodded. He looked pained.

The son clasped his father. “That’s all right, Papa, I understand.”

Husnain turned and looked towards the desalination plants. “After I get my degree in nuclear engineering from Columbia, I will come back and help build more plants like these.”

“Then maybe I can eventually retire,” said Shahid, “into well-deserved obscurity.”

“Hah! No one will ever forget you, Father,” said Husnain. “The shining crescent will be a symbol forever of progress and cooperation. Back in America, I’ve even seen Christian teenagers wearing silver crescents. They say it is a symbol of peace and understanding.”

“I wish I could say I had grand goals when I came here fourteen years ago,” said Shadid. “I just wanted to prevent World War Three.”

“You were involved in a much bigger endeavor,” said Husnain, “You were a father who wanted to keep his little son alive and preserve a world for him to grow up in. That meant a lot, and involved a lot, but you did it.”

Shahid looked at his son. “Here, I thought I was the wise one!”

Shahid started at a shuffling run towards the surf. Husnain followed. “Where are you doing? You are going to ruin your shoes!”

Shahid smiled as he looked back. “Something I should have done fourteen years ago, but my mind was preoccupied.” He laughed. “I’m going to fill my pocket with sea shells!”

Copyright © 2017 by Lou Antonelli

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