Abbas Milani writes in The New Republic, comparing the Egyptian revolution in 2011 to the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, and offers a word of warning:
For Egyptians, the history of the Iranian Revolution should serve as a warning. In 1978, Ayatollah Khomeini hid his true intentions—namely the creation of a despotic rule of the clerics—behind the mantle of democracy. More than once he promised that not a single cleric would hold a position of power in the future government. But once in power, he created the current clerical despotism. And when, in June 2009, three million people took to the streets of Tehran to protest decades of oppression, they were brutally suppressed.
With this history in mind, Egyptian democrats must not be fooled by the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. If and when Mubarak falls, they simply cannot allow the most radical and brutal forces to win in the ensuing chaos. If these forces are allowed to claim power using the rhetoric of democracy, Egyptians will find themselves decades from now needing another uprising, which is precisely the current situation of the Iranian people.
The propaganda machine for the clerical regime in Tehran has been gloating about the similarities between the events of Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran and developments in Egypt now. It shamelessly claims that today’s uprising in Egypt is but an aftershock of the revolution in Iran. The Egyptian people must prove them wrong.
And not just for the sake of Egypt. For over a century, Egypt, like Iran, has been a bellwether state for the entire region. The arrival of freedom to Egypt would therefore put the Iranian mullahs on the defensive. Far from a repeat of 1979, the Egyptian uprising might begin to seem like a close cousin of 2009—a true democratic revolt. This would give confidence to democrats across the Middle East. It would suggest that the tectonic plates in the region really are shifting away from despotism and dogma, toward democracy and reason. Inshallah!