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The View from Beirut

The terrific folks at NOW Lebanon weigh in on the upheaval in Iran and what it means for their country:

Wouldn’t it be fitting if the inspiration for the protests came from events on the streets of Beirut over four years ago, when an unstoppable wave of people power succeeded in ejecting authoritarianism? There was strong evidence at the time to suggest that the Lebanese army was put under pressure by its Syrian overlords to brook no dissent from those who bravely demonstrated against the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the prolonged influence of Damascus in the country. Those whose decision it would have been to make that call knew that to order the soldiers to fire into the crowd would be cataclysmic. The rest, as they say, is history. In an extraordinary wave of public sentiment that became known as the Cedar Revolution, a new day broke over Lebanon.

The Iranian authorities appear to have more of an appetite for a scrap, and as blood runs in the streets of Tehran – and apparently in Shiraz too – it is worth remembering that such draconian measures issue from the leaders of a country that would have exerted not insignificant influence over Lebanon had the March 8 bloc prevailed at the June 7 polls. Events in Iran are a timely reminder of how the Iranian authorities, not unlike those in Damascus, do not tolerate dissent. If Lebanon needs to go shopping for a foreign patron, Tehran is not the place.