BBC Persian report on “Iranium”

Due to recent protests in Iran, authorities are reportedly jamming the BBC Persian satellite broadcast. Iran’s leaders regard the channel as a propaganda outlet for the Brits’ nefarious aim of regime change.

But if the Iranians were paying attention, they would see that BBC Persian has an excellent report on another piece of propaganda: the neoconservative-dominated “Iranium” documentary from the Clarion Fund.

The BBC Persian piece notes that the film’s writer and director, Alex Traiman, is an ideological Israeli settler who lives in the West Bank; it is critical of many of the facts and figures in the film.

The movie’s narrator, Academy Award-winning Iranian actor Shoreh Aghdashloo, answered some tough questions. Aghdashloo said she is against a war — which organizers of a premiere event said was Traiman’s goal — but can tolerate opposing or critical views. She said that some of the comments about “executions” may be exaggerated, but this film reveals the true appearance of the regime.

That tracks closely with Traiman’s own comments. At the Heritage Foundation premiere, the West Bank settler more or less admitted that the movie presents an alarmist account.

Aghdashloo, having admitted some exaggerations, goes on to praise the film as a detailed historical account. The point, she said, is the Iran can’t be trusted with a bomb. “Can you trust a regime that does not respect its own people/children to have such a destructive weapon?” she asks in the interview.

So, if she’s against war, and Iran doesn’t relent in its alleged nuclear weapons program, what does she suggest doing?

This problem is the same one which Clifford May, a star of “Iranium” and the head of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, faced when quizzed on television about it. May and other neocons call for sanctions and “credible military threats,” though they think neither tack is likely to succeed. Some former Iraq hawks, like Ken Pollack, have softened their stance on Iran — calling for a policy of eventual military containment because launching a war would be disastrous. May, on the other hand, thinks that should pressure fail, bombing would be the next U.S. move.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, another expert from FDD interviewed for “Iranium,” is an unabashed Iran hawk, who manages to squeeze in jokes about how much he has written about advocating an attack on the country.

It seems that, unlike Pollack, some hawks have not learned their lessons from Iraq. This should give pause to Aghdashloo, as she opposes a war. Those who painted a worst-case scenario for Iraq — as “Iranium” does for Iran — were wrong. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. Yet those who ignore these lessons are exactly the people with whom Aghdashloo has joined forces.

Columbia Professor Hamid Dabashi also appeared in the BBC Persian report. While Aghdashloo said she lent her voice to the film to speak the truth, Dabashi claimed that her voice doesn’t give the film any credibility. In fact, he said, her presence in the movie only undermines her own credibility.

More then Aghdashloo, what worries me is how quickly those involved in this film seem to acknowledge and dismiss its exaggerations. The choice to use violent force in international affairs is one of the gravest decisions a government — whether in the U.S. or Israel — can undertake. That these critics of Iran are so sloppy when trying to present the public with a series of casus belli is disconcerting.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.