Iran set to add atomic symbol to currency

Who knows how seriously to take these reports, but word on the street last week was that Iranians are getting nervous about the nuke drive and its potential, er, fallout:

On the eve of the gathering [of western powers], Ahmadinejad struck a defiant tone. He told a group of clerics that Iran’s nuclear ambitions were unstoppable. “The train of the Iranian nation is without brakes and a rear gear … We dismantled the reverse gear and brakes of the train and threw them away some time ago,” he said.

Those comments brought a hail of condemnations in Iran on Monday, not only from reformists who have long opposed Ahmadinejad, but also from conservatives who once backed him but now see his fiery rhetoric as needlessly provoking the West into confrontation.

That means it’s time to ratchet up the nationalist brainwashing, so the atomic symbol is getting a plum spot on the face of the new 50,000 rial note (Khomeini himself appears on the reverse). The mullahs have a habit of transforming political issues into elements of religious doctrine, as Noah Feldman memorably described last year in writing about Islamist anti-Americanism. Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring Islamic nuclear weapons forbidden, but the more dissent there is in Iran over the nuclear program, the more we’ll see Shiite religious authorities start to argue that Islam demands nukes. This is a short step in that direction.

The punchline? The 50,000 rial note is a new denomination printed up to keep pace with the soaring inflation generated by the mullahs’ economic malfeasance:

The biggest note now in circulation is for 20,000 rials, worth a little more than $2.

With inflation officially running at about 16 percent – which economists say underestimates price rises for the goods most people worry about – Iranians carry increasingly large quantities of notes even for relatively modest shopping trips.

Inflation, particularly as it applies to tomatoes, is of course a Jewish plot, too.

Nukes may have been the cause of the breakdown in Saudi-Iranian talks this weekend, although this may have played into it too. I can’t believe Ahmadinejad, with all exterminationist rhetoric, would support a peace initiative that calls for Arab recognition of Israel. But then why did the Saudi news agency claim he did? To embarrass him? During an official state visit?

Exit question: if we hit their reactors, how many other countries are getting hit in response?