The Geography of Friendship Games
Geography plays a significant role in Friendship Games. Following the sinking of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, prominent Iranians are convinced that the USA will launch a war and seek nothing short of regime change and an end to the Islamic Republic.
The architect of Iran's defense devises a plan to "deny the space" for the buildup of US forces on the Persian Gulf coast of eastern Arabia as America prepares for war. Iran has some tricks up its sleeve as it seeks to knock America out of the Persian Gulf before they can launch their war against Iran.
What does "deny the space" mean or entail? Bahrain is headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar is host to the main US Air Base in the region. Lastly, Camp Arifjan in Kuwait is a boneyard of sorts, hosting thousands of pre-positioned and regularly-maintained American armaments like tanks, artillery pieces, HIMARs, and troop carriers to shorten any necessary future deployments to the region following the First Gulf War in 1991 (and the invasion of Iraq in 2003).
A reviewer critiqued a couple of things. He argued that it was implausible for the mighty American military to be caught off guard or be ineffectual against a country like Iran. But that's kind of the point of Friendship Games; that is, even a great power like the USA is not infallible, especially when the enemy is an emerging regional power and has the element of surprise.
A second critique was, how does Iran manage to invade, conquer, and hold multiple whole countries and in a short period of time? Aside from the "hold" part – that's not really in the equation here (I don't want to spoil things too much, but it's a timing thing) – this is where Geography of the region matters.
These aren't whole countries per se that Iran is seizing. Iran is largely invited into southern Iraq's Basra Governate, which, like Iran, is predominately composed of Shia Muslims, in the guise of an international Friendship Games. From there, Iran launches its ground operations following a series of surprise air and missile attacks on the major US bases presented above following punitive US airstrikes on Iran. (Think a proliferation of technologies from US adversaries like North Korea and China).
The ground invasion is aimed at Kuwait, eastern Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and – with great trepidation – the United Arab Emirates. See the crude (my apologies) map above.
These are not whole countries as one might think. Rather, these are all largely city-states. Kuwait is Kuwait City. Eastern Saudi Arabia is primarily Dammam. Bahrain is Manama. Qatar is Doha.
And a major highway runs right down the coast to each city.
Is it implausible that these city-states fail to defend themselves? Maybe. The situations were different, of course, but remember how quickly the Iraqi Army disintegrated in the face of a rag-tag force of a mix of Islamist zealots and former soldiers that called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. And then there was the disintegration – in a week – of the Afghan army and government as the Taliban seized town after town as the US withdrew in 2021.
I hope I didn't give away too much. Soldiers and civilians are caught up in the fast-moving events, and their stories are presented here amid the drama of global import.
I hope you enjoy Friendship Games. I had a fun time writing it.