Iran is modernizing, having recently joined the nuclear age. And if you’re concerned that their atomic agenda could prove less than peaceful, take solace. Russia is on the scene, monitoring the program to ensure the Iranians play by the rules.

Of course, Russia’s presence may not quell the angst within the prudent Westerner’s soul. Cold warriors will remember Russia as the black heart of the defunct Evil Empire. The Soviet Union won no prizes for transparency and square dealing when it came to nuclear arms. So trust the “Russkies” if you like. But believing Russia will prevent Iran from going nuclear is akin to trusting Bill Clinton to safeguard both your girlfriend and your finest cigars.

Nuclear technology isn’t the only area where Iran is advancing. The ruling ayatollahs, mullahs and imams are instituting social reforms, too. Thanks to their foresight and open-mindedness, Iran will soon be only a millennium behind the civilized world, give or take a century.

Take the case of Sakineh Ashtiani. Like the woman the Pharisees brought before Jesus, Sakineh is charged with adultery. Also similar to the biblical story, her accusers presented no co-conspirator. Even so, Sakineh has been flogged, imprisoned, denied access to family and counsel, convicted and sentenced to death by stoning; all in a manner that makes the biblical Pharisees seem like America’s Founding Fathers.

Ironically, this is where Iran’s Islamic courts prove their nation’s cultural development and social advancement. In response to international pressure Iran has rescinded Sakineh’s stoning sentence. You heard right, no state sanctioned stoning for Sakineh. They’ll hang her instead.

I’ve nothing against a good hanging, mind you. The gallows served our own country well in dealing with murderers, rapists and other assorted ne’er-do-wells. But adulterers? We’d have to hang half of Congress. Okay, so that’s another point in favor of the noose. But in Iran, exchanging the stone for the rope is decided progress.

If Iran continues down this road they may achieve Genghis Khan’s level of genteel sensitivity, Medieval Europe’s social harmony and King George the Third’s regard for the rights of man. Who knows? With a little coaxing Iran’s ayatollahs might even become as enlightened as the 20th Century’s greatest humanitarians, men like Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, and “Uncle Joe” Stalin.

Who could’ve foreseen, just a few years ago, Iran becoming so contemporary that they would forego stoning for hanging. At this rate, Tehran is destined to become a tourist haven. Can’t you envision the sign in the travel agent’s window? Visit Iran: Gateway to the Dark Ages.