The long grey beard made Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei look older than he was, but it wasn't like that at all. I knew he could move fast if he had to. He turned his head and pretended to see me for the first time, and began to urgently wave a column by Thomas Friedman of the NY Times in my face. One about how the United States and Iran need to engage each other.
"We are natural allies," he said. "Because now the major threat for both Iran and the U.S.A. is al-Qaeda."
I wasn't fooled and I ain't leashed by any diplomatic niceties. I worked up a mouthful of gob and spit it as close to his new Reeboks as I could.
His face broke into in an ugly sneer. "We are not after conflict, Mr Cheney. We are not after crisis. We are not after war. But we don't know whether the same is true with you. If the same is true with you, the first step must be to end this vicious cycle that can lead to war."
I dropped down in a chair across from him. "Any way you want it, Khamenei," I said insolently. "I'm listening."
"We do not want to have to prove that we are strong. Our nuclear program is not to show the U.S. we are strong. It is because of our previous centuries of threats and invasions," he said.
My tongue ran over my lips. "Khamenei, you forgot something. You forgot that I'm a guy that takes no crap."
"Mr. Cheney, each of us is afraid of looking weak if we take the first step," he replied. "We have this fear in common with America. Before contemplating recognition, each side feels it necessary to convince the other side that 'I am not weak.'"
I pulled out my .45 and shot him in the kneecap. He screamed Allah something or other as he grabbed his leg.
Slowly, I got up. "I'm over being scared," I said. The Ayatollah moaned softly as I thumbed the hammer back and took aim at his other knee.