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An Iran-style outcome for Egypt? Why there are key differences.

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But a more important takeaway from Iran may be the events of Sept. 8, 1978, when security forces of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi fired on antigovernment demonstrators with helicopter gunships and tanks. The opposition claimed the death toll from Black Friday to be 4,000, with 500 dead in downtown Jaleh Square alone.

“If Mubarak stays for awhile [with US support] and there is a crackdown – then the dire predictions would come true,” says Ervand Abrahamian, a historian at Baruch College, City University of New York.

“In Iran, if the shah had been eased out earlier – before Jaleh Square – it would have been possible to have a compromise and peaceful transition,” says Mr. Abrahamian, author of “Iran Between Two Revolutions” and other books on Iranian history.

“After Bloody Friday, moderates were undercut and no possibility of peaceful transition could have occurred,” adds Abrahamian. “Similarly, a peaceful transition in Egypt is now possible, but if it is delayed and massive blood is shed then we will see the strengthening of extremists and the triumph of the die-hardists. The same people who wanted the shah to stay created the eventual disaster.”

Army tells protesters to return to 'normal life'

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