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Tension between the U.S. and Iran builds while a clandestine member of the CIA tries to uncover a threat to U.S. national security.
We first meet Steve Church on a business trip in Bahrain where terrorists attempt to take over the hotel where he is staying. Using prior CIA training and tradecraft, Steve is able to blunt the attack until the police arrive. On the same day, the Director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA calls to tell him that she wants to see him urgently. Steve, not knowing the nature of her interest, is conflicted. He is not wild about getting involved again with an overly bureaucratic CIA and he knows that another CIA assignment would kill his relationship with his live-in girl friend Kella, a former French intelligence officer. Nevertheless, without being an adrenalin junky, he prefers the excitement of the CIA to working for West Gate, a defense contractor, where he is a fast tracker.
Meanwhile in Iran, the man who will become Steve’s nemesis, Ali Mousavi, captures, interrogates and executes a scientist suspected of working for the CIA, the Great Satan’s spy agency. He also orders a young American with uncertain loyalties, to Tehran from his home in California to work on a special project.
Although Steve’s father Marshall is now semi-retired from the CIA (does a spy ever retire?), he recruits an Iranian intelligence operative on a secret mission to the United States. Without a permanent presence in Iran, the CIA turns to Steve to handle the new agent (XYSENTINEL) in Tehran.
Initially astonished and dejected that Steve will again risk his life to obtain information that policy makers will ignore, Kella is unable to change Steve’s mind. Not willing to break off the relationship, Kella executes a mental somersault and recruits herself to go with Steve as his communicator.
Under business cover, Steve and Kella take over the case in Tehran. Their initial goal is to collect intelligence on Iran’s nuclear plans and capabilities. Instead, they learn that Iran is preparing a massive cyber attack against the United States. Iran’s theocracy, humiliated by the American Navy’s control of the Persian Gulf, feels that anonymous cyber warfare is the card to play to force the Great Satan’ to withdraw from the region.
From the start, external factors begin to trump Steve’s clandestine tradecraft. A disgruntled CIA officer leaks information that reaches Washington’s leading newspaper. Then Elizabeth Crossley, the spouse of the U.S. Interests Section chief in the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, is having an affair with her driver Jafar, a major who works for Ali Mousavi. In Washington, the Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence denies she was briefed about the Iranian operation and calls for an investigation of the CIA. Alerted, Ali Mousavi decides that the Satan Spy must be arrested in time to expose him on the anniversary of the 1979 capture of the American Embassy in Tehran. And Jafar, her Iranian handler, forces Elizabeth, the American “whore,” to reveal Steve’s true identity.
While the tension between the U.S. and Iranian Navies in the Persian Gulf ratchets up, Steve learns that the young Californian, is an integral actor in preparations for a cyber attack designed to disrupt America’s computer and electronic systems. Although Ali Mousavi is harnessing all his capabilities to arrest him, Steve must nevertheless prolong his stay in Iran to collect the information that will enable the United States to set up effective defenses.
Forced to leave the capital, Steve and Kella begin their escape with help from XYSENTINEL’s secret Zoroastrian network. They barely escape an earthquake that buries their pursuers as they use the ancient system of underground water canals to evade Mousavi’s men.
A controversial election in Iran brings hundreds of thousands of angry demonstrators on the streets to protest a “stolen” election. In Washington, the Intelligence Oversight Committee Chair meets with the president to convince him not to support the Iranian opposition nor to take action based on Steve’s “suspect” intelligence.
Elizabeth finds herself in the middle of the riots and becomes intoxicated by the popular mood. However, she and others are shot by the Basij militia trying to control the crowds. She disappears and her fate is uncertain.
Steve and Kella manage to connect with a two-man team of CIA paramilitary officers and reach a beach where a Navy SEAL team meets them. Under fire from the Revolutionary Guard Navy’s fast-boats and on the move, they are transferred from a SEAL boat to a helicopter that takes them to Fifth Fleet Headquarters in Manama where Steve transmits his information on Iran’s cyber warfare plans to the National Security Agency in Maryland.
In Iran, Mousavi, deprived of his propaganda coup in capturing Steve Church, instead identifies Elizabeth Crossley, held incommunicado in a Tehran hospital, as ‘Satan’s Spy’ to cover his failure.
Steve’s escape and the Naval action prompt Iran to trigger its cyber attack but Steve’s information has provided the tools to avoid a national disaster.
The American President meets with Steve and Kella in the Oval Office to thank them for having helped avoid a major national catastrophe. As they leave the Oval Office, the president tells Steve and Kella, “If you two have any important announcements, I will be very upset if I’m not invited.”