I was asked to join the Democratic Coalition of All People (DECAP), a newly-formed, broad-based alliance of intellectuals who want to end corruption, help the poor, scare Israel, and generally do good stuff for the nation.
“Why do you want me to join? I asked Mostafa, their point man.
“People think we don’t have a chance, but we do. I can smell it, especially if the NDP were to split between the old and new guard. We’re hoping this will happen naturally. And yet again, someone like you can make it happen.
“I stay out of politics on principle, Mostafa. I work with trusted clients on special assignments. Mostly it’s simple stuff: a hit, a bit of sectarian strife, a shipment of contraband. I don’t like long-term commitments.
“I am not asking for much. I only want you to run our secret operations.
“Not again, Mostafa. My last coup d’etat was so long ago, I cannot even remember when it was. I am a bit rusty.
“You got me wrong. We’re not a junta; we’re a legitimate, broad-based political movement. We just want reassurance that the other guys won’t play dirty.
“What makes you think you can trust me?
“You’re the longest surviving arms dealer in the Middle East, one of the world’s top fashion designers, and I heard you’re interested in the media. As you know, the national television is in shambles and we’ll have to restructure it anyway. So I was hoping you’ll run it. I am sure you can turn it into something amazing, like Aljazeera.
“You really think I can compete with Aljazeera?
“Of course. Videotapes from terrorists, news flashes of upcoming coups, the dirt on world leaders, sex and violence, who can do that better than you? Forget the money. Think of the glory man.
“I never forget the money, Mostafa.
“It won’t cost you a penny. We’ll give you full editorial control, the usual perks and the entire three top floors for your private use. Have you ever seen the view from up there? I’ll have a Jacuzzi the size of a swimming pool put in there for you. Just say the word.
“You know something, Mostafa. I always wanted a TV station of my own, but never got around to it. But what exactly do you expect me to do?
“Nothing much. Just show up in televised meetings, let’s say once a month. Come in your customary dark glasses, sit in the second row, and nod occasionally. That’s all. You don’t even have to attend party meetings.
“I get it. You need a bogyman. You want someone to keep the outsiders at bay and the locals on their toes.
“I wouldn’t call it a bogyman, just someone to level the field. You know the NDP has everything. After all these years in power, they have the security services, the media, and the big business. And we, we have nothing, apart from those few talking heads who think they could run the country. We need the clout, the track record, the international credibility. And only you can give us that.
“Do I have a say in your politics?
“If you want. But frankly, don’t even bother. You see, we’re not really as cohesive as you think. We’re a hodgepodge of Islamists and seculars, populists and ivory tower intellectuals. My job is to make everyone work together. This is why I need you on board. Only you can make sure everyone is reading from the same page.
“You need a party whip.
“No, we have plenty of those, and they’re already at each other’s throat. We need a strongman.
“No sweat. I can kneecap half of your leaders tomorrow if you want me to, free of charge. Call it a token of friendship.
“Not so fast. I want the democratic process to take its course. Once a credible leader emerges, that’s where you come in. I’ll need you to make sure the others stick by the leader. Gentle persuasion is enough I hope, unless you really want to make an example of one or two. I leave that up to you.
“By the way, this nuclear program everyone is talking about these days, where do you stand on it?
“We don’t have a nuclear policy yet. Why are you bringing this up?
“I was just thinking, and that would be a separate contract of course, maybe you want me to help out. I could make a few phone calls and you’ll have the first detonation in the western desert within months. What do you think?
“We can’t risk it. We don’t want trouble with the Americans.
“There won’t be trouble, I promise. The Americans aren’t worried about nukes. They’re merely worried about nukes falling into the wrong hands.
“No, we don’t want to end up like the Iranians.
“The Iranians are a different story. They don’t have me sitting in the second row, now do they?