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Can Tiananmen Really Teach Us Anything About Tehran

The murder of Neda Agha-Soltan, Robin Wright writes,

may have changed everything. For the cycles of mourning in Shiite Islam actually provide a schedule for political combat — a way to generate or revive momentum. Shiite Muslims mourn their dead on the third, seventh and 40th days after a death, and these commemorations are a pivotal part of Iran's rich history. During the revolution, the pattern of confrontations between the shah's security forces and the revolutionaries often played out in 40-day cycles.

This made me think of an article Andrew Leonard recently wrote about "Tiananmen's bloody lessons for Tehran":

We all know how the endgame played out at Tiananmen on June 4, but I'm not so sure everyone has truly internalized the awful lessons. As I've been reading coverage of the events in Iran all week long, I've been feeling increasingly sick to my stomach. There will be no Velvet Revolution here. When a government is willing and able to use murderous force against its own people, all the good will and giddy excitement and Internet access in the world is as so much dust.

But I wonder if the lessons of Tiananmen actually do apply to Tehran. Given the culture of martyrdom in Iran that Wright describes, would a Tiananmen-style massacre, rather than crush the opposition, only give it more power? And is that what's stopping Khamenei from ordering a full-scale massacre? The secruity forces have certainly been brutal, but they do appear to be exercising at least some restraint. Meanwhile, Moussavi has reportedly declared himself "ready for martyrdom." Perhaps that readiness will keep him alive.

--Jason Zengerle