I’m always a sucker for photos of a graduating class of female Iranian police cadets. Iran is an Islamic state and denies rights to women, but at the same time, they issue them machine guns. I was telling someone the other day that Iran is my pick for Islamic state that has the best shot at joining the modern world, membership in the axis of evil notwithstanding. They have a functioning democracy (despite problems with entrenched religious frreaks in the judiciary and intelligence service), an educated populace (72% literacy rate, 65% among women), and natural resources. Iran actually has a slower population growth rate than the United States, and the life expectancy there is a fairly robust 70 years. Looking at the human rights reports for Iran, you don’t see any wholesale suppression of various ethnic groups or religious sects either. Anyway, of all of the Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, I think Iran has as good a shot as any of them at making some real steps forward toward becoming a liberal Western-style democracy with guaranteed civil rights for all its citizens. We’ll see.