Opinion: The Soviet Union appeared powerful in 1990, but collapsed months later; the situation in Iran shows some similarities

I felt a sense of déjà vu as I watched televised scenes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad exhorting a huge crowd last week on the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. Members of Iran’s “Green” opposition were hardly visible, leading many to conclude that the protest movement had been crushed.

Yet my mind flashed back to 1990, when I stood on a Moscow reviewing stand and watched Mikhail Gorbachev address a huge crowd in Red Square during May Day celebrations. Who could have imagined that, 20 months later, the Soviet government would cease to exist?

Could it be that, one or two years hence, Iran’s Islamic Republic will meet the same fate?

Of course, the differences between Iran and the then-fading Soviet Union are many, and I’ll discuss them. But first, let’s consider the similarities that make the comparison apt.

The huge crowd in Tehran’s Azadi Square included tens of thousands of government workers bused to the scene. Compulsory attendance was combined with a free lunch and a workers’ holiday, just as with the old May Day parades in Moscow — not exactly a good measure of the regime’s strength.

Members of the opposition, which arose after rigged presidential elections in June, were kept out of the square by a massive police presence, augmented by armed militia goons who blocked streets for miles, and beat and arrested demonstrators. For good measure, the government also shut dow… >>>

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