The World from The Hill: New 'Iranium' film gets lawmakers' attention

The Hill – -

By Bridget Johnson
February 13, 2011

Lawmakers participated in a new fi

lm on Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons intended to get the attention of the White House and Congress.

The Iranian government, which claims it is expanding its nuclear program for peaceful energy purposes, has condemned “Iranium” and successfully lobbied Canada to postpone a showing of it. The Canadian government subsequently reversed course and showed the 60-minute documentary.

Iran declared last week, on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, that it had “mastered” nuclear fusion. The film explicitly ties nuclear dominance to the goals of the 1979 revolution, and points out how the nuclear progression has coincided with threats against Israel and the West.

“Iranium,” which

is narrated by Oscar winner Shohreh Aghdashloo, was screened in the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Allen West (R-Fla.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.) were in attendance.

Three legislators participated in the filming of “Iranium”: Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Reps. Engel and Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), both members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“It was really kind of like word of mouth,” first-time director Alex Traiman told The Hill of how the lawmakers came to be involved in “Iranium.”

Many lawmakers were invited to participate in the 10-day shoot that included 25 interviews across Washington, but “really most of it had to do with scheduling” and not a lack of interest, Traiman said.

The two Democrats and Republican who are featured onscreen are known for drawing attention to the Islamic regime.

“We know that Iran is the leading sponsor and supporter of terrorism around the world,” Engel says in the film. “We have to succeed. You know that old, tired adage ‘failure is not an option’? Failure’s not an option.”

Of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Berkley says, “We talked for many years that he was just a front and the real power was the mullahs.

“The reality is this: Whether it’s the mullahs that are calling the shots or the president of Iran that is calling the shots their remarks are the same.”

The film comes as the latest refrain on Iran is steered more toward human rights and democracy than nuclear development.

Tehran praised Egyptians for rising up against Hosni Mubarak’s secular government, calling it an Islamic awakening and stinging rebuke of the West.

But whereas some trace the roots of the grass-roots, social-media-driven revolt in Egypt to the Green Revolution protests against Ahmadinejad’s 2009 election, Iran quickly made clear this weekend that no opposition rallies — “riots by seditionists” — would be permitted, sparking a rebuke from the White House and vows by the opposition to press forward and protest anyway.

The desire to topple the regime is certainly shared by many on Capitol Hill as shown through bipartisan efforts in the last Congress. Yet even with a Republican House majority, legislation dealing with Iran’s nuclear program has been slow to emerge from the 112th Congress.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced the Tough and Smart National Security Act last month, which includes the sense of the Senate that Congress should “confront the nuclear threat from Iran.” His office didn’t respond to a request to expound upon this.

In the film’s bonus footage posted online, Kyl said Iran has been facing “relatively low-grade sanctions” from the West in the financial, trade and banking sectors, but said they should be expanded to the energy and technology sectors.

“Those kinds of sanctions can directly affect the ability of the regime to survive and we need to make those even stronger,” he said.

On Sunday, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce said that the international business community had lent a valuable hand in rendering sanctions ineffective.

“We could be, I think, much more effective at putting pressure on the Iranian regime if we had an effective sanction to cut off their import of refined gas,” Kyl said.

“Iranium” is produced by the nonprofit Clarion Fund, a group that drew headlines shortly before the 2008 presidential election.

The group at the time sent 28 million DVDs of the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” to swing states to be tucked into newspapers. A handful of of media outlets refused to carry the insert, echoing the concerns of some groups that branded the film “fear-mongering” and “divisive.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) hosted a screening of “Obsession” on Capitol Hill in 2006 after Cantor’s cousin was killed by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv.

The Clarion Fund counts former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney and Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes among its board members.

This article was originally published here.

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Film about Iranian nukes airs after threats

CTV News – -

February 6, 2011

OTTAWA — An Ottawa audience whooped in support of free speech on Sunday as a film about Iran’s nuc

lear ambition finally had its national capital premiere.

Heritage Minister James Moore said the screening of “Iranium” sent a clear message to the Iranian embassy that they didn’t get to decide what movies

get shown in Canada.

The hour-long documentary traces the evolution of Iran’s nuclear program and according to press materials, includes interviews with over 25 people.

The Free Thinking Film Society had booked Library and Archives Canada’s theatre to show the film in January.

But the institution cancelled after receiving a letter of protest from the Iranian embassy.

A public outcry ensued, including a stern admonishment from Moore, who counts the library as part of his portfolio.

He said that he’d also received a letter from the Iranian embassy before the original screen date.

After Moore demanded the film be shown, the Library agreed but then cancelled again after receiving threatening phone calls and suspicious envelopes.

It was then rescheduled for Sunday.

Around a dozen Ottawa police and other security personnel surrounded the downtown Library and Archives building on Sunday night and all patrons had to pass through security.

A spokesman for Library and Archives declined to discuss specific security measures but said they were comfortable with allowing the film to go ahead.

Even the organizers of the event said they weren’t privy to all the details.

Society president Fred Litwin agreed there was certain irony in the fact that people in the Middle East are currently protesting for democracy, yet a film like this could get cancelled in Canada.

“The saddest point was that I got emails from Iranian-Canadians who were saying, you know, I left Iran to escape this tyranny and all of the sudden they are back in the capital of Canada,” he said.

“This is outrageous.”

Litwin said the film’s screening should not be considered a political victory for the Tories nor about Iranian-Canadian relations.

“This is about free speech,” he said.

Moore told the audience the screening sent a clear message to the Iranian embassy.

“In a building a stone’s throw away from the Parliament of Canada, you will not tell us what we will and will not watch,” he said, to raucous applause from the crowd.

In an earlier press conference Sunday, Moore called the initial decision by the Library to call off the screening “crazy.”

“This is a decision that will be remembered for some time,” he said.

This article was originally published here.

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Canada Stands Up to Iran

National Review Online – -

January 27, 2011
By Clifford May

Last week, Canada’s Free Thinking Film Society — love that name — was scheduled to screen Iranium, a new documentary about the regime that has ruled Iran since 1979, its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, and the dangers that poses to the West. But then the Iranian embassy complained and — coincidently — threats and “suspicious letters” were received at the National Archives in Ottawa, where the event was to take place. The Archives cancelled the screening and shut the building. Archives spokeswoman Pauline Portelance explained: “We deemed the risk associated with the event was a little too high.”

Apparently, however, officials above her pay grade recognized that allowing Iranian theocrats to set the limits of free speech in Canada’s capital would run an even higher risk. It was given to Minister of Heritage James Moore to deliver a Churchillian response.“This movie will be shown, the agreement will be kept,” he said. “We will not be moving it to a different facility, we’re not bending to any pressure. People need to be kept safe, but we don’t back down to people who try to censor people by threats of violence. Canada does not accept attempts from the Iranian Embassy to dictate what films will and will not be shown in Canada.”

The Canadian screening of Iranium has now been rescheduled for early February. Will Iran’s rulers and supporters accept that decision? Or will they escalate the conflict? While we’re waiting for the answer, it’s worth recalling that the Islamic Republic has a long history of attempting to enforce its will extraterritorially. As early as 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had led Iran’s revolution ten years earlier, issued a fatwa against a British subject, Salman Rushdie, because Khomeini considered Rushie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, blasphemous. The fatwa called for Rushdie to be executed by any Muslim who could manage the task.

That might have been expected: As Iranium makes clear, Khomeini’s revolution was not just against the Shah of Iran. It was intended for export — and not only to countries in which Muslims are in the majority.

Khomeini’s ambitious goal then, and his successors’ goal now, is “world revolution,” the creation of a universal and “holy” government and the downfall of all others. “Islam is good for you,” Khomeini said. “It is good for the world.” He said this even as — in Stalinist fashion — he was executing at home and assassinating abroad not just those who opposed him but also those who might one day oppose him.

I am among those interviewed in Iranium, along with several otherFoundation for Defense of Democracies experts. Also providing analysis and insight: scholar Bernard Lewis, former CIA director Jim Woolsey, Sen. Jon Kyl, and former ambassador John Bolton. But it is really Iran’s despots who tell the story.

For example, in 1980, war broke out between Iran and Iraq. Khomeini sent Iranian children on foot to clear minefields so that regular troops and tanks could pass after. How could a man of faith justify that? He was guaranteeing their entry into Paradise. Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, finds poetry in such carnage. “No art is more beautiful,” he is seen in the film telling a group of his acolytes, “more divine and more everlasting” than “the art of martyrdom.”

Khomeini’s successor, the Supreme Leader — an audacious title — Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is candid: America is not just Iran’s enemy; America is the “enemy of Allah” and “the Great Satan.”

It is difficult for us, for Westerners, children of the Enlightenment, to believe that there are rulers of great nations who take such ideas seriously. But if you watch and listen to them — not least in this documentary — it becomes clear that they do. What does that mean for policy? It means that diplomacy, outreach, engagement, and carefully crafted speeches showing respect and apologizing for “grievances” will have limited utility.

Truth be told, Americans have been reaching out to Iran’s theocrats for more than 30 years. Khomeini came to power on Jimmy Carter’s watch. Carter was by no means hostile to him and his revolution. On the contrary, Carter’s U.N. ambassador, Andrew Young, called Khomeini “some kind of saint.” William Sullivan, the U.S. ambassador in Tehran, compared Khomeini to Gandhi. A State Department spokesman at that time worried about the possibility of a military coup against Khomeini, saying that would be “most dangerous for U.S. interests. It would blow away the moderates and invite the majority to unite behind a radical faction.”

In response, Khomeini and his followers, as seen in the film, chanted not only “Death to America!” but also “Death to Carter!” And, of course, less than a year after Khomeini came to power, his followers took over the U.S. embassy, which Khomeini called a “center for corruption,” holding its occupants hostage for 444 days — not exactly the kind of action Gandhi would have endorsed.

Seizing an embassy is an act of war.  Carter’s response was, as Bernard Lewis characterized it, “feeble.” Khomeini was gratified to discover that “Americans cannot do a damn thing.”

Three years later, Khomeini tested that proposition again. He dispatched the Lebanese-based Hezbollah to suicide-bomb the barracks of U.S. peacekeepers in Beirut. Not since Iwo Jima had so many U.S. Marines been killed in a single attack. In response, President Reagan committed a grave error: He did not retaliate against Hezbollah or Iran. That taught a lesson: Hit Americans

and Americans will retreat. They really “cannot do a damn thing.” (And, as I write this, Hezbollah is on the verge of taking over Lebanon. The American response? So far, it would be fair to characterize it as “feeble.”)

Islamic militants throughout the world were inspired by what happened in Tehran and Beirut. What Steve Simon and Daniel Benjamin, advisers to President Clinton, would call The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam’s War Against America had begun.

Iran has since collaborated with al-Qaeda and a long list of other terrorists groups — the evidence is overwhelming — while also training and equipping those fighting Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The regime continues to repress its own people — dissidents, of course, but also ethnic and religious minorities, homosexuals, and women. As noted in the film, virgins sentenced to capital punishment are routinely raped prior to execution. This practice also is based on theology: Virgins go to Paradise, a reward enemies of the regime do not deserve.

And now Ahmadinejad and Khameini are in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons. To what end? The destruction of Israel, which Khameini has called “a cancerous tumor.” The treatment he prescribes: “remove it.” But it is not Israel alone to which scalpels are to be applied. Ahmadinejad tells a crowd: “The arrogant powers of the world must be annihilated. . . . The countdown of America’s sinister power has begun. . . . Have no doubt: Islam will conquer . . . all the mountaintops of the world.”

Iran’s Arab neighbors have at least as much to fear as Israel and America. As cables recently released by WikiLeaks make clear, they know that. They are looking to the U.S., and they are not reassured.

No sensible, rational person can watch this film, hear this evidence, and fail to come to the conclusion that the fanatics who rule Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

That is the message Iranium — I like that title, too, by the way — conveys. That’s why the theocrats and their apologists don’t want you to see it. That’s why you really should.

— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.

This article was originally published here.

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IRANIUM FALLOUT – Cancelled screening thrusts film’s ‘important lessons’ into spotlight

Ottawa Sun – -

January 23, 2011

Hey Iran, you’re not going to be happy with me. I’ve just watched the film Iranium, the one your embassy requested Library and Archives Canada not screen last week.

The story of the screening’s withdrawal has been widely discussed after Ottawa organizer Fred Litwin was told it was cancelled due to protest threats and complaints from the Iranian embassy.

“This is a real innocuous movie,” Litwin states.

And he’s right.

It begins with a history of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, that saw Iran become a theocratic dictatorship encouraging schoolchildren to chant “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” while also seeing its leader insist that Islam “will conquer all the mountains of the world.”

It proceeds to highlight President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rise to power, the country’s desire to develop nuclear capabilities and the populace’s growing disdain at their leaders.

Anyone who feels the film is unfairly critical of Iran, which seems to be the embassy’s issue, can of course exercise the same rights as Iranium’s filmmakers have: To produce their own film.

The interview sources are prominent — Bernard Lewis from Princeton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN

John Bolton, and more — and the narration is provided by Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose family fled Iran in the wake of the revolution.

The sound and editing are obviously intended to provoke worry in viewers and while some of the worst-case scenarios discussed (like Iran employing an electromagnetic pulse to disable North American electrical sources) are far-fetched, most horrible acts from the past are far-fetched, but that didn’t stop them from happening. Any worry would not be without cause.

“I want to encourage debate,” says Litwin, who has been running screenings for several years and plans an evening on the Caledonia conflicts as his next event.

Asked about his dream event, he muses on bringing European politician Geert Wilders to Ottawa, who Litwin believes is widely misunderstood.

“If you want to ask some tough questions great,” he states, encouraging everyone to attend. He just doesn’t like it when protesters scream down speakers instead of challenging them at the microphone.

He thinks the solution to free speech conflicts, either the local Dire Straits incident or the international Danish cartoons, is to continue exposing people to these things.

“We have to publish so much of it that it can’t be responded to.”

Flood the markets so protesters learn that free expression isn’t negotiable.

The second most important lesson I took from the film was how we must be wary of theocratic leaders and cannot presume they are rational actors. If someone believes this world is only a way station towards paradise can we trust them with nuclear weapons?

But the most important lesson is that what matters most in distraught countries is the people.

I know a talented artist who came to Canada from Iran after his uncle was publicly murdered for his art. To not screen a piece of art because it upsets the embassy is to dishonour those Iranians who have died for liberty or continue to sacrifice their safety in the name of freedom.

It’s baffling that so many people still don’t understand the basic premises of liberty. Your rights do not include the right to not be offended.

Especially when some people’s barometer of offence is so low it includes cartoons.

The film has been rescheduled for Feb. 6, 7 p.m. at Library and Archives Canada. Heritage Minister James Moore plans to attend. More information can be found at I recommend you attend.

This article was originally published here.

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Iranium will be screened at Library and Archives Canada in February

National Post – -

Sarah Boesveld
January 21, 2011

Ottawa’s Free Thinking Film Society will screen a controversial film about Iran’s nuclear weapons program at the National Archives in February despite Tehran’s recent efforts to block it, organizers announced on Friday.

Library and Archives Canada canceled the original screening of Iranium on Tuesday after receiving threats of protests and complaints from the Iranian government against the film, which calls Iran a nuclear and terrorist threat. The move was met with public outcry and an impassioned reaction from Heritage Minister James Moore, who instructed the arm’s length agency to reschedule the event and stressed that the Harper government would not let Iran “dictate” what films can and cannot be shown in Canada. Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to Tehran on Wednesday, stressing Canada’s commitment to free speech.

The 60-minute documentary will be screened Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Library and Archives Canada theatre, with advance tickets on sale for $15.00. Clare Lopez, a Washington D.C. based senior fellow at the Centre for Security Policy who is interviewed in the Raphael Shore film, will fly back to Ottawa to speak after the screening. She was scheduled to appear at the original event Tuesday and, upon return to her Ottawa hotel room, posted a statement on YouTube in which she decries the Library’s move as a “victory for tyranny.” She then delivers a 14 minute talk about the film and the Iranian regime.

President of the Free Thinking Film Society Fred Litwin thanked the government

for defending the film.

“I applaud the Minister of National Heritage, James Moore, for his determination in standing up for freedom of speech – but it should never have had to go to his office,” he said.

Mr. Litwin also thanked those who’d supported the society, especially the Iranian-Canadians who told him they were “outraged to see Khomeinist influence right here in the capital of Canada.”

This article was originally published here.

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