The opposition in Iran: A partner for the West

2010/03/08

Published on the website of German public radio channel “Deutschlandradio” on 8. March 2010
Source (German): http://www.dradio.de/dkultur/sendungen/politischesfeuilleton/1138072/
Translation: germantoenglish and Josh Manning

by Stephan Hilsberg

A lot has changed in Iran. It is hard to imagine that the old times will return, when the regime of the theocratic state could do as it pleased. And we benefit from this as well.

An Iranian protester with a picture of opposition leader Moussavi (Picture: AP)

The Iran that we know openly provokes its neighbors by threats of military force. Hamas and Hezbollah could not exist without the support of the Iranian mullahs. Iran is about to make a nuclear bomb, and totally ignores all attempts to gently change their minds by means of dialogue or threats of sanctions supported by the UN Security Council and its many resolutions. All these efforts seem fruitless – as we recently witnessed on the occasion of the security conference in Munich.

Not only is Iran an indicator of global security, which has become utterly complicated, but it is also a danger in itself. And we should be grateful if the Iranian opposition succeeds in putting the mullahs out of business.

However, the opposition has already begun to curtail the power of the dictatorship in Iran. If it is true what some commentators claim – that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be ready to abandon his nuclear ambitions if he could in turn put down the opposition movement, then this speaks in favor of the growing strength of the opposition – but not more. Because the mere mention of the idea is completely absurd. The regime in Iran wants both power inside and outside the country. Even concessions of the West will not prevent this regime from oppressing whoever it wants to oppress. However, the West is not helpless as long as it does not consider itself a mere political block or instance of power, but rather understands itself as a vessel of its own values, which are a power in their own right, fully capable of exerting long-term effects.

This was clearly demonstrated by the opposition movements in the communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. In the end, it was their actions that defeated the communist dictatorships and established peaceful democracies. The West alone, with all their reasonable and partially successful efforts for a detente, could not have achieved this goal. The problem was solved by the Polish Trade Union Solidarity (Solidarnosc), the Charter 77, and the peace movement of the GDR.

It should be the same today: The West should try to maintain a sober view on the military threat that emerges from Iran, and try to curb it wherever it is able to. However, the West will not be able to solve the problem. However, that’s not even necessary. For the regime, the mullahs in Iran might have once been a beacon of hope for a broad majority of the Iranian populace, who were ready to follow Ayatollah Khomeini into some kind of theocracy. Although, it is plain to see that this theocracy has evolved into a mere dictatorship. This was foreseeable.

Now, after more than 30 years, the magic of the revolution has gone and the adhesive power that once strengthened this state has become frail. The theocratic state has not kept its promises, nor has it provided better solutions. Its power is on the decline and we all are witnessing a well-organized and networked opposition that is about to present a better alternative.

We do not know how they will rule and we do not know to what extent the ideas of a theocracy are still alive within them. But the way they act complies with our principles: The right to self-rule, democracy, and free elections. Thus, in the long run they are partners for the West. In Poland, it took nine years for the trade union movement Solidarity to disempower the communists. In Iran, it is this opposition movement within the country, not our sanctions, that weakens the mullahs.

This is why the West should look at the opposition movement as a partner – and treat them accordingly.

Stephan Hilsberg, SPD politician and journalist was born in 1956 in Brandenburg Müncheberg and grew up in East Germany where he worked as a computer scientist. In the late 1980s, he became involved in the peace movement of the Evangelical Church. At the beginning of the peaceful revolution in 1989, he was among the founding members of the East German SPD and was its first spokesman and later CEO. Hilsberg was a member of the last and freely elected People’s Chamber 1990. Subsequently, he was member of the Bundestag until 2009 and during this time, served as the spokesman for education and research of his political faction as Vice Chairman of the faction and also for two years as the Secretary of Transportation. Stephan Hilsberg now works as an independent author and journalist.

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One Response to “The opposition in Iran: A partner for the West”


  1. This is a great article. Thanks for the translation.


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