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 for 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 screening was canceled and the building was closed. National Archives spokeswoman Pauline Portelance said, “We deemed the risk associated with the event was a little too high.”
However, apparently Canadian 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 are waiting for the answer, it is worth recalling that the Islamic Republic has a long history of attempting to enforce its will extraterritorially.
As far back as 1989, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had led Iran’s revolution 10 years earlier, issued a fatwa, a religious ruling, against a British subject, Salman Rushdie, because Khomeini considered Rushdie’s novel, “The Satanic Verses,” blasphemous. The fatwa called for Rushdie to be executed by any Muslim who could manage the task.
As “Iranium” makes clear, 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 he was executing those who might disagree with him.
I am among those interviewed in “Iranium,” along with scholar Bernard Lewis, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. But it is really Iran’s despots who tell the story.
For example, in 1980, when war broke out between Iran and Iraq, Khomeini sent children on foot to clear minefields so regular troops 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 acolytes, “more divine and more everlasting” than “the art of martyrdom.”
Ahmadinejad and Khomeini’s successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — an audacious title — are candid: America is not just their enemy, America is the “enemy of Allah” and it is “the Great Satan.” To fight America, Iran has collaborated with al-Qaida — 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.
And now Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are in hot pursuit of nuclear weapons. To what end? Ahmadinejad said, “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.”
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 is why the regime and its apologists do not want you to see it. That is why you really should.
Clifford D. May is the president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.