‘Iranium’ or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the ‘Military Option’

Ali and I have a post up on Tehran Bureau in which we review the Clarion Fund‘s latest film, “Iranium.”

We write:

The film opens with a history lesson that begins in 1978 with the first signs of the widespread unrest that would eventually topple the Shah. Iran’s despotic dictator is presented as “a long-time ally of the United States,” as the film’s narrator, Iranian actor Shoreh Aghdashloo, explains.

Then comes the Islamic Revolution, and the film places the blame squarely on the fecklessness of President Jimmy Carter.

“The fact that Jimmy Carter did not support the Shah in his time of difficulties actually signaled to the Iranian people that the Shah’s rule was over,” says Harold Rhode, a disciple of Bernard Lewis (who also appears in the film) and a former Pentagon analyst involved in Douglas Feith and his Office of Special Plans’ activities building a public case for war with Iraq.

Rhode’s comment hints at themes that keep reemerging throughout the documentary: The belief that Middle Easterners respond only to shows of strength, and that, while Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have been weak on Iran, Ronald Reagan’s supposed strength was respected in the region (with the exception, of course, of his withdrawal from Lebanon after the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks there were bombed in 1983).

The film pushes the neoconservative meme that Iranian leadership is irrational and can’t be trusted with nuclear technology.

“Americans and Europeans are really uncomfortable with the idea of holy war and mass murder for religious reasons,” Cliff May says in the film. “Because they can’t imagine that for themselves, they also can’t imagine that others behave that way. But this is a failure of imagination.” Bernard Lewis compares the inability to deter a nuclear Iran with Iran’s use of “martyrs” in the Iran-Iraq War, in which young Iranians were sent across Iraqi minefields.

But both these generalizations miss a key point: Iran’s leaders, despite a willingness to sacrifice citizens, have demonstrated that they are concerned primarily with themselves. Iran’s use of a nuclear weapon would almost certainly imperil the regime’s survival.

And the experts interviewed by the Clarion Fund make no secret about where they stand on the “military option.”

Tighter sanctions and increased support for the Green Movement are both endorsed in the section titled “Stopping the Regime,” but Clarion’s experts also favor keeping the “military option” on the table.

“If Israel feels compelled for reasons of self-preservation to mount an attack against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities, the United States will nevertheless be blamed for the Israeli attack and the United States will be drawn into the aftermath of such an attack no matter whether we were part of it at the beginning or not,” explains CSP’s Lopez.

While the film’s justification for military action appears to hinge on Israel’s willingness to launch a unilateral attack, recent comments from former Mossad chief Meir Dagan pushing back the Iranian nuclear clock may pose a challenge to the sense of urgency expressed by Clarion’s experts and the narrative of imminent conflict crafted by the film’s producers.

Iranium fits nicely into Clarion’s oeuvre. Like the producers’ previous movie, it portrays a clash of civilizations, suggests that Muslims value death over life, and portrays irrational hatred toward Israel and anti-Semitism as key to comprehending the anger and frustration voiced by Muslim countries against the United States. While Iranium does little to elaborate on these basic tropes about the Muslim world — in this case, mainly Iran — the formula for the Clarion Fund’s anti-Muslim propaganda is becoming more apparent with each new iteration.

The Clarion Fund appears to have (perhaps mistakenly) uploaded a copy of “Iranium” to the video sharing site Vimeo. The embedded video is below but we imagine that the producers might be taking the video down shortly.

It’s also worth watching the extended interview (hosted on the same account) with the film’s narrator, Shoreh Aghdashloo. Aghdashloo appears to share Frank Gaffney‘s interest in “creeping Shariah” but, despite the repeated (ad nauseum) use of the term, it’s a little unclear how much of a grip she actually has on the current political climate in Iran.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Let’s not forget that Reagan not only cut and ran from Lebanon (which we never should have gone to in the first place), but traded arms for hostages too. The Gipper was in way over his head when it came to the Middle East. Despite his undoubted achievements, we in effect wasted eight years in regards to Middle East policy (and energy policy, too).

    The original sin in Iran was the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953. That said, dropping the Shah was a disaster for the U.S. He was a contemptible figure, to be sure, but was Khomeni any better? It’s a bitter thing, but we would’ve been better off telling the Shah to crush the revolution, something he could’ve done even as late as the early autumn of 1978. Would the Iranian people be worse off today if he had? Probably not.

  2. I would encourage you to send this to Iranian.com editors. Great piece.

  3. Jon, the Shah wasn’t in Iran at the time, remember the cancer treatments? And, like it or not, there were two polls before the last election in Iran that showed Ahmedinejhad was leading, one two weeks before the election and the other on the eve. Both polls were British, the Guardian and BBC. It is entirely plausible that our perspective of these elections is effected by parallax–the bias of the observer. How many average Iranians do we have contact with versus how many urbanized, Western leaning Iranians?

  4. We must syop this nonesense..stop war in Afghanistan and Iraq..we just donot need more war.
    Iran was never danger at leasr 200 years never has attaked to any country,instead USA has attacked to Japan ,Iraq,Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia,Panama
    and Korea directly..and thousands other countries indirectly!!! USA has Nuclear war head so as Israeal and India and Pakistan…
    Why Iran is problem?
    Iran isnot problem but Israeal is..
    Today , America suffers due to economy problem but yet America is paying $350 Million dollors PER DAY
    to Israel!!!!!why they shouldnot feel economy problem why I as tax payer pay to Israeal genocides and crimes….??
    I as an American Jew do not think Iran is a problem but Israeal is a problem for today Humanity.
    American must wake up and object and ask what about
    IsreealNuc? israel genocide?

  5. The Shah abdicated and left Iran in Jan. 1979. He was still in the country in the early autumn of ’78. Up until August of ’78 at least he could’ve used the army to suppress the revolution. Try looking up the facts before you tell me I’m wrong.

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