IRAN'S GOVERNMENT has now executed more than two dozen Kurds, following a rebellion last week in a border town. They were charged with waging war against God and his representative -- always a dangerous endeavor, but never more than when God's self-appointed representatives are the people running the firing squads. The street fighting in Tehran has died down, but the goverment's campaign continues agaist the independent newspapers. In the southwest, among the oil fields, Arab nationalism and separatism are quiet for the moment but very much alive.
The Iranian elections earlier this month only demostrated that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his followers have no intention of allowing any political standing to anyone who does not entirely agree with them on all subjects. The large numbers of people excluded from politics are, as you might expect, finding other ways of making themselves heard. The Khomeini government is responding increasingly by resorting to armed force and suppression.
On the opposite page you will find excerpts from a recent address by the outgoing secretary of energy, James R. Schlesinger, in which he discussed the interests of Iran's neighbor to the north. The Soviet Union can hardly avoid taking a hand in the disorder generated along its border by a misled revolution. What about Iran's other neighbors? One of the curiosities of the Persian Gulf is that most of the countries there have little effective means of military defense. The United States had hoped, until a year ago, that the shah would keep the peace.
Mr. Schlesinger touches, delicately but explicitly, on the future of Saudi Arabia. It is a matter of such exquisite sensitivity that American officials very rarely mention that in subject in public. There is a deep fear in the government that any speculation can easily become self-fulfilling. The Saudi government is manifestly losing some of its confidence in the ability of the United States to help it if it should be threatened by spreading turmoil in the region. But what, in fact, could the United States do? At the moment, neither the Carter administration nor anyone else seems to have any very plausible answer.
Meanwhile, in the United States, this happy land, the gasoline shortage has faded. Driving habits seem to be returning to normal. Traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in the first weekend of August was significantly higher than a year earlier, and the parking lots around town are all full again. Why has it happened? Iran is exporting oil -- although you should take note that in recent weeks, for reasons not clear, the exports have been slipping downward. The Saudis raised their production in July a big help -- although you should also note that they promised this increase only for three months and no one can say what they will do in October. The next time you pull into a filling station, you might consider for a moment where that gasoline is coming from, and the extraordinarily fragile chain of contingencies that keeps it flowing.