The newest political thriller from a seasoned writer of the genre is almost there: intelligent, challenging, complex -- but never quite believable. Arnold Cartwright, perhaps the most brilliant radar technician in the world, and certainly in his native England, has just been sacked. Bitter and reeling from a failed marriage, he takes a job in Spain, updating the latest radar technology for -- Ecuador? By the time he comes to realize that he is actually working for Iraq, he has been drawn so deeply into the plot to annex Kuwait that he is not even sure himself if he wants out. Around Cartwright, Rathbone (Lying in State, 1986, etc.) weaves a net of international politics so intricate that following its convolutions can often be as aggravating as it is engrossing. Save for the one woman who suspects the truth, the US Pentagon intelligence people who, behind the scenes, machinate the build-up to the Gulf War are at best a bunch of racist sexists and at worst -- surprise! -- murderers, albeit, of course, indirectly and always from thousands of miles away. The Iraqi side of the story comes from glimpses into the secret diary of Salih K -----, an academic who has been unwillingly drawn into Saddam Hussein's inner circle by virtue of his grasp of the subtleties of the English language, and whose amusing reflections on what he has seen there are often dangerously less than flattering. Perhaps the most discordant note in the plot is Roma, the Palestinian terrorist who improbably seduces Cartwright for the sake of the Arab Nation, and then even more improbably seems to soften, nursing him back to health and leaving him to be rescued by American soldiers. Despite the sometimes herky-jerky nature of the plot, the political minuets are danced superbly -- they're what you read the book for, and they make you think.