Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.

Street demonstrations in Iran had built into a crescendo by December 1978, and the question was how long the Shah could hold on. Islamic militants seeking to drive the King of Kings from his Peacock Throne laid plans for a final round of confrontation with the Shah's security services. The protests exploded as planned, and the Shah fell from power and fled Iran a little more than a month later, on Jan. 17, 1979. An excerpt from The Post of Dec. 10, 1978:

By Jonathan C. Randal

Washington Post Foreign Service

TEHRAN, Dec. 9 --

Tehran, uncharacteristically quiet today with its streets virtually deserted, awaited the start Sunday of a two-day religious holiday that Iran's opposition hopes will launch the final round of its nearly year-long effort to overthrow the shah.

Violence continued in other Iranian cities. United Press International reported that 29 persons were killed when army troops opened fire on anti-shah demonstrators in Tabriz and the Moslem holy city of Qom.

[In Washington, the Pentagon said that 983 dependents of U.S. servicemen and Defense Department civilians stationed in Iran had left the country by air Friday and Saturday. The Pentagon dispatched five C141 transport planes from the United States to complete this airlift, which spokesmen emphasized was not an official evacuation. About 500 to 600 dependents, who have said they want to remain, are still in Iran, a Pentagon spokesman said.]

Tehran looked like a city expecting a siege. Its usually traffic-jammed streets were all but empty.

A massive exodus by road, which began in earnest Friday, today involved 130,000 cars, according to traffic officials, as residents took advantage of a long holiday weekend to escape the violence that both government and opposition decry but fear may break out.

Opposition organizers claim that 1.5 million people -- a third of Tehran -- will march Sunday in a mammoth anti-shah demonstration that will converge from seven lines to march on the Shahyad monument, which symbolizes the shah's claim to represent continuity in the country's 2,500-year history.

The march commemorates both international Human Rights Day and the anniversary of Ashura, the date 1,298 years ago when Hossein, grandson of the prophet Mohammed and founder of the Shiite sect of Islam, was killed in battle.

Some 3,000 foreigners and Iranians left on regularly scheduled and special flights from Tehran Airport, which abruptly shut down at 7 p.m. until Tuesday morning.

In making the announcement of the shutdown, Iran Air, the national carrier, which flew most of its planes out of the country for safety's sake, offered no explanation for its decision. But observers noted that the protest march is due to end near Tehran airport. ...

In this sprawling city, residents emptied canned food shelves in groceries, which were about the only shops open.

Hundreds lined up for kerosene used for heating and cooking and now scarce because of the six-day-old oil-field strike, which has reduced production to well below the normal 6 million barrels-a-day level. The airport ran out of JP4, the fuel used by jet aircraft.

The Intercontinental Hotel, a past target for rioters, bricked up its ground floor windows and welded steel beams across the ballroom entrance.

This series is in a book that can be purchased online at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/2000/collectors.htm or by calling 1-888-819-8879