- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Amid reports that a number of protesters in Tehran were killed in clashes with security forces during ongoing protests, Iran’s recent history suggests the situation could quickly turn dangerous, with dire consequences for the regime.

According to one Iranian blog site, as many as eight people have been killed so far.

Ironically, the regime in Tehran appears to be falling into the same trap it set for the monarchy at the beginning of the Islamic revolution in 1979.

It is difficult not to draw similarities between the scenes playing themselves out in the streets of Tehran in recent days and events leading to the downfall of the shah 30 years ago.

Part of the movement that eventually led to the demise of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his regime’s replacement by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini fed on the deadly cycle of demonstrations and their inevitable suppression by authorities, in particular by the army, once it became involved.

The massive protests by supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi after the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was declared the winner of Fridays elections continued Tuesday.

But some analysts cautioned against looking at the past to gauge the future.

Hratch Gregorian, president of the Institute of World Affairs, a Washington-based conflict analysis and management outfit, said that what is happening in Iran today is “civil conflict,” not “revolution.”

If one is to draw comparisons with the events that brought the ayatollahs to power in 1979, it was in large part the vicious cycle of deaths among protesters followed by their funerals - events that drew larger crowds with every death.

Further feeding the flames of discontent were immense crowds that would spew out from mosques following Friday prayers, roused by inciting sermons from imams supporting the revolt.

Authorities in Iran will be watching closely what happens after each of the funerals that will take place when the dead are buried. No doubt they will be looking nervously at the crowds at Fridays noon prayers.

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