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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- As I sat down recently with a senior Iranian government official, he urgently waved a column by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times in my face, one about how the United States and Iran need to engage each other.
''Natural allies,'' this official said.
It was a surprising choice of words considering the barbs Washington and Tehran have been trading of late.
"We are natural allies. Why?" he said. "Because now the major threat for both Iran and the U.S.A. is al Qaeda."
He said al Qaeda had attacked the "symbol of our faith" when it struck the Golden Dome mosque -- the Al-Askariya Mosque -- in the Iraqi city of Samarra last February, setting off much of the sectarian violence that has plagued the war-torn nation over the last year. Similarly, he said, al Qaeda struck the "symbols of American power" on 9/11.