Friday, February 25, 2011

IRANIUM: My Interview with the Filmmakers

Since Iran’s world-changing 1979 revolution, the Iranian mullahcracy has been at the forefront of Islamic terror against the West. Thumbing its nose at the disapproval of an impotent international community, it has proceeded full-bore to acquire the ultimate tool of terror: nuclear weapons capability. Iran’s imminent success in this regard would mean, at best, a disastrous reversal of the balance of power in the Middle East, and at worst, Iran’s promised destruction of Israel and an apocalyptic threat to the United States as well.

In the shadow of this impending menace, the Clarion Fund has released Iranium, an hour-long documentary highlighting the danger of a nuclear-armed Iranian regime. I attended a packed screening of the film in Los Angeles last month, and afterward the busy filmmakers agreed to discuss the project. Producer Raphael Shore is Clarion’s founder. Director Alex Traiman is a journalist and former radio personality covering news in the Middle East. He has also worked in marketing, and public relations.

Mark Tapson:    Raphael, let’s begin with the origin and mission of the Clarion Fund, the organization behind Iranium.

RS:     Clarion Fund was founded in 2006 and is a non-profit organization that educates Americans about issues of national security. To that end, the Clarion Fund produces and distributes documentaries on the urgent and growing threats of radical Islam and now Iran. As well, we run the website, which has about 50,000 members who receive our regular updates. Our advisory board includes Walid Phares, Frank Gaffney Jr., Zuhdi Jasser, Daniel Pipes, Clare Lopez, and others.

In 2006, Clarion released the award-winning documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West about the global threat of radical Islam, and it was seen by about 30 million Americans. In 2008, Clarion released the well-received documentary, The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America, which focuses on the strategies of radical Islam in America and the risk it poses to western freedoms.

MT:    Those previous films stirred quite a bit of controversy - especially Obsession, which far Left commentators like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (who called it “neocon pornography”) went into overdrive to demonize and discredit. Why do you think the Left objects so vehemently to Clarion's message, and do you anticipate that Iranium will arouse that kind of opposition?

RS:     I do not believe that “the Left” “so vehemently” objects to our message; in fact, much of our support comes from Democrats. We believe that this issue, the threat of Radical Islam to America and the West, is not a partisan issue and deserves the concern from both liberals and conservatives – that is why we feature authorities from both sides in our films. The potential dangers should Iran indeed acquire nuclear weapons pose a significant threat to all of us – regardless of political views.

The heated opposition to our work comes primarily from what we might call the extreme or far left. Most opposition has come from CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] and some other so-called moderate Muslim groups. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial, they have links to the terrorist group Hamas, and encourage people to not speak to the FBI and not to cooperate with the U.S. government. Such groups use the sometimes naïve media to characterize all forms of criticism as “Islamophobia”, and are obsessed with condemning,  disparaging and silencing all who dare to warn of the problems with radical Islam. I expect that these groups will criticize Iranium as well, as it exposes the brutal violence and hatred employed by the radical Islamic Iranian regime to its own citizens as well as to the rest of the world.

MT:    Alex, tell us about your own background, and how you came to be the director of Iranium.

AT:     I've spent time as a journalist in the U.S. and Israel. I had heard the repeated prognostications regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions and development timetables along with the rhetoric about America and Israel coming out of the mouth of [President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

So I started to read about Iran. And I quickly realized that it is not just rhetoric. The Islamic Republic of Iran is founded upon extreme principles that are canonized in Iran's revolutionary constitution. The constitution calls for the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others, and references Imam Khomeini's plot against the American conspiracy.

Iran has been a leading sponsor of terror attacks through proxies since the taking of the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. Sixty-three hostages were held for 444 days. Vicious attacks occurred throughout the Middle East and even into South America at the order of Tehran. Iranian citizens have suffered worst of all. The progress they were making under the Shah [Reza Pahlavi] has turned into three decades of regression.

And when I figured all this out, I realized just how dangerous it would actually be if the current rulers of Iran were to have nuclear weapons. Then, when I paired what Iran might be able to do with those weapons with calls for the destruction of America and Israel, I knew that the problem was gravely misunderstood.

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to make this timely film by Raphael Shore. I felt it was the most important film he should be producing under the circumstances.

MT:    What has been the Iranian government's official response to Iranium, and can you tell us what happened with the attempt to shut down the recent Canadian premiere of the film?

AT:     The Iranian government has repeatedly condemned the film by name.  

In Canada, the Iranian Embassy sent requests to the Canadian government to cancel a screening that was to take place in the capital's National Archives and Library. Those requests were followed by threats of protest and the delivery of two suspicious letters to the Archives.

The Archives did in fact cancel the event.  The screening's organizer, Fred Litwin of the Free Thinking Film Society, then contacted Canada's Minister of Heritage and Culture James Moore. Mr. Moore took the cancellation as an opportunity to stand up for freedom of speech in Canada and demanded that the screening take place.

The Canadian government sent a diplomatic letter to the government of Iran reiterating that Canada was a country committed to freedom of speech and expression. Mr. Moore stated publicly that the regime in Tehran would not dictate what films would or would not be shown in Ottawa.

The screening took place in Canada on February 6, before a packed crowd. In response, the Iranian government called Canada “Iranophobic.” A Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Tehran lashed out on the film in later press conferences, claiming that certain Western nations were afraid of Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program, and would use whatever tools were available to apply public pressure on the regime.

MT:    What do you think the recent uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East mean in terms of your film's relevance and urgency?

AT:     Events in the Middle East make the film as relevant as ever. If there is one regime that stands above the rest in terms of its brutality to its own citizens, and its sponsor of violent action around the world, it is Iran. And if there is one country that is particularly ripe for a revolution, in the sense that its people are completely fed up with its leadership, that country is also Iran.

The events are also creating an absolute sense of urgency. Today, with the fall of Tunisia's Ben-Ali and Egypt's Mubarak, there is a unique opportunity to see the regime in Tehran replaced, without utilizing the tools generally available to a superpower – namely economic and military pressure. We must seek to take full advantage of the present opportunity to support democratic elements in Iran, and assist them in their struggle against the oppressive regime in Tehran. And we must do that before that regime crosses the nuclear threshold. 

MT:    In the film, Frank Gaffney, Jr. of the Center for Security Policy notes that we have passed the point of discussing the “risks associated with acting, militarily, to the point where we must discuss the risks associated with not acting.” Just a few weeks ago Ahmadinejad stated, “You cannot make Iran back down an inch from its course.” What actions should we take to head off the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran?

AT:     As a nation, we must make a shift in public opinion. Currently, the general feeling amongst Americans is that we hope that Iran doesn't acquire nuclear weapons. We acknowledge that this is not a pleasant scenario. Yet, we must quickly reach the point where we find it completely 100 percent unacceptable that Iran would cross the nuclear threshold. Once we reach that point, we can seriously consider a whole range of options to deal with the threat a nuclear Iran poses to the free world.

And the film Iranium can aid greatly in this regard. It is the only tool available today that demonstrates the extreme ideology and brutal history of Iran's leaders, and does so in their own words. It is a true eye-opener for millions of Americans who have thus far been unable to fully grasp the nature of the Iranian regime.

MT:    What do you hope Iranium will bring to the discussion about the threat of an Iranian regime in possession of a nuclear weapon?

AT:     It is to understand that the weapons themselves do not represent the depth of the danger. Rather, they are the final component of an extreme ideology that has been backed by extreme actions for three decades.  

The rulers of Iran are deadly dangerous to US troops in the region, to stability in the Middle East, and especially to the Iranian population – even if they don't have nukes. And to let Ahmadinejad, [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and company cross the nuclear threshold could literally be catastrophic.

(This article originally appeared at Front Page Mag)