‘It is that uncertainty that frightens’
Questions for ‘Iranium’ director Alex Traiman
Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News
The creators of the documentary Iranium present in the hour-long film their view of the threat of a nuclear Iran to America and the world. A production of the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Jerusalem, it includes footage of Iranian leaders, and interviews with 25 politicians, Iranian dissidents, and experts on Middle East policy, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation.
The movie’s director, Alex Traiman, a journalist and writer who grew up in Marlboro, moved to Israel in 2004.
Traiman sent answers to e-mailed questions from NJJN about the film.
NJJN: What inspired you to make this film?
Traiman: As a journalist, I had heard a lot about the threat that a nuclear Iran posed to the Middle East, and Israel in particular. I started to speak to some experts about the situation, and began reading some books about the regime in Tehran. It was then that I learned that for 30 years, Tehran has taken aim specifically at the United States, and was committed to the spread of an extreme ideology beyond Iran’s borders. When I coupled statements calling for the end of America and the destruction of Israel with Iran’s history of sponsoring acts of terror around the world, I realized that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could be more dangerous than most people realized.
NJJN: A recent northern NJ screening attracted a large audience that appeared to be overwhelmingly Jewish. Would you like to move beyond this audience?
Traiman: We have had screenings in several venues, attended by members of all faiths. To date, we have had multiple screenings of over 1,000 attendees each that were predominantly Christian. Our screening at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, was attended by Jews, Christians, as well as several Iranians who were in complete support of the film’s message.
NJJN: What do you want people to take away from the film?
Traiman: We want the film to help shift public opinion from the current viewpoint that it would be bad for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, to the necessary viewpoint that it is completely unacceptable to tolerate an Iranian regime possessing illegal nuclear weapons.
The way that is accomplished is for Americans to understand that there is an extreme ideology and a history of violent terror attacks underwriting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Americans must come to the conclusion that nuclear weapons coupled with public statements calling for a world without America is a threat Americans should take personally.
NJJN: Did you attempt to include more moderate perspectives on the issue in Iranium?
Traiman: Several of the interviewees in the film would consider themselves moderate on the issues….
All of our films feature moderate voices that have emerged from those that left the Middle East under persecution. And it is up to Muslims to lead the charge against religious fanatics that oppress and brutalize citizens in the Middle East and around the world. The danger for Americans is to mislabel opposition elements as moderates, particularly if their history demonstrates that they may be just as radicalized as those they seek to replace….
NJJN: What do you say to those who criticize the film as “fear-mongering” or offering a one-sided perspective on the threat of a nuclear Iran?
Traiman: Mexico doesn’t lose sleep at night because America has nuclear weapons. The French and British are not concerned that one would launch a nuclear strike on the other. This is because the leaders of those nations don’t openly call for the destruction of others. We don’t know whether or not Iran would launch a nuclear strike on the U.S., on Israel, or on Saudi Arabia. But based on their track record, there is no true indication that they would not launch such a strike. It is that uncertainty that frightens many experts.
We have heard the other side of the issue repeatedly. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had ample opportunities to represent the regime’s side of the story in Western forums. Media outlets line up to interview him…. He has presented several speeches from the floor of the United Nations, and has addressed our intellectual elite at Columbia University. Iranium documents the other side of the story, in particular the statements Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei make when they are not addressing the Western community.
NJJN: Viewers may get the impression that it is a foregone conclusion that Iran will go nuclear within four years. But there are other perspectives; why did you decide not to include them in the film?
Traiman: We presented many other perspectives in the film…. But the film also documents the leverage that Iran gains geopolitically even if Iran never launches a nuclear weapon.
The problem is that this leverage in and of itself is highly problematic. A nuclear umbrella could provide cover for Iran’s terror proxies such as Hizbullah or Hamas to launch conventional attacks on the United States, Israel, or Saudi Arabia, etc., and could prevent us from launching counter-attacks in such instances….
NJJN: Do you think recent events in, among other countries, Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain offer a different outcome, even in Iran, from the one you describe in the film?
Traiman: Recent events in the Middle East prove that oppressed nations can take their societies back from tyrants. This is especially true in Iran, where similar revolutions are a part of the nation’s history. Clearly, the best possible scenario, and one which we present clearly in the film, is for Iranians to rise up and replace their leadership with a truly democratic one. And we in the United States should do everything in our power to support democratic movement within Iran.
NJJN: What can viewers who leave the film with a sense of urgency around the issue of a nuclear Iran do to bring about a different outcome?
Traiman: First and foremost, individuals moved by the content of the documentary should show it to as many people as possible. Most Americans do not yet have a sense of urgency surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and we should. Individuals can host screenings in synagogues, churches, on college campuses, and even in their homes.
In addition, individuals can visit our website at www.iraniumthemovie.com for action items, including sending letters to our congressmen and senators, demanding that current sanctions legislation be enforced, and supporting Iranian dissident movements.