Reviewed by Ruth S. King
October 18, 2011
Many Americans who remember the advent of the Ayatollah and the taking of American hostages in the United States Embassy and the failed and humiliating effort of their liberation by a thwarted American operation, may not comprehend the historic contradictions that tore Iran apart. There were always the tensions between defenders of the Shah in a secular and Western inspired nation which brought prosperity, opportunity, education and unparalleled rights for women to Iran, and the adherents of more rigid Sharia laws. Furthermore, while the Shah was feared and loathed for his brutality and despotic rule, he was the last emperor of the throne of the great Persian Empire which dated from King Cyrus the Great in 500 B.C.
“Reza Kahlili” is a pseudonym for an Iranian brought up with privilege and plenty under the secular, modern, but increasingly brutal and oppressive reign of the Shah Reza Pahlavi. He spent his college years in America but returned to Iran after the downfall of the Shah, seduced ,inspired and encouraged, like so many of his countrymen, by the Ayatollah Khomeini whose interviews and sermons promised “….Our future society will be a free society, and all elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed. Women are free in the Islamic Republic in the selection of their activities and their future and their clothing….” There was the additional promise of democracy when the more moderate Mehdi Bazargan was chosen Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In “A Time To Betray- The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran” he has written a stunning memoir of the end of monarchy, and in a sense, of national history in a once proud nation. He describes a boyhood of family love and friendship among gated and palatial homes and gardens in Teheran, a carousing life in an American college interrupted by his father’s death and a return to a changing Iran and increasing politicization and alienation among his friends and family. After completing his studies in California he made a fateful decision to return to Iran and volunteer his services to the Revolutionary Guard.
The taking of American hostages, the summary execution of all the army officers who served under the Shah and the imprisonment of dissidents gnawed at his resolve. Furthermore, the ideological split between the People’s Mujahedin, who opposed Khomeini and the ruling clerics, and the Ayatollah’s followers and his Revolutionary Guard supporters drove an insurmountable wedge between his dearest and oldest friends.
His family, neighbors and friends openly derided his service in the Guards and his only solace was his young bride Somaya whom he married in September of 1980 only two weeks before Iraq attacked Iran. Since the Ayatollah had killed and gutted the Shah’s military, the Basijis, a paramilitary force of young men-some as young as thirteen- faced the brunt of the battles. The war lasted eight years and half a million Iranians were killed.
Despite the raging war, the Ayatollah and the mullahs continued their oppressions. Reza’s pleas for mercy were ignored and his best friend and his two young siblings were executed by the Revolutionary Guard. He heard the screams of young girls who had been raped and tortured and executed in Evin prison; he learned of the systematic barbarity in Evin prison from a former inmate. In desperation and disgust after witnessing the betrayals, the violence, the murders, the tyranny and the horrors visited on his beloved nation by the Mullahs, he developed his own plan to strike back.
His prayer before embarking on the chosen path is heartbreaking and inspiring:. “…..If what I am seeing in my country is Islam, then I no longer believe Islam to be the religion of honesty and sacrifice…..How can I watch all these atrocities? How can I watch people slaughtered and not be able to do anything?….How can I stand by and watch while they demolish our proud history and civilization?….They are taking us back to an era where the barbarous acts of Mongols left nothing but bloodshed throughout the land. God, I am scared. I can no longer remain quiet and watch my country disappear into a morass of evil.”
It was a time to betray.
Reza became “Wally” the code name for the CIA spy who remained in the Revolutionary Guard, who dressed and spoke and prayed as one of the Ayatollah’s faithful, risking the opprobrium and estrangement of his family to maintain his double life to save Iran.
“Wally” supplied his handlers with a treasure trove of intelligence and information. At every turn he risked exposure and torture and execution. He prevailed and lives in freedom today. America is in his debt. Read this book…but use caution. You won’t be able to put it down.
The Objective Standard
New York: Threshold Editions, 2010. 352 pp. $26 (hardcover).
Reviewed by Daniel Wahl
TOS Vol. 6, No. 3.
At the start of A Time to Betray, Reza Kahlili writes that this is “a true story of my life as a CIA agent in the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.” As such, you might expect it to be a fast-paced thriller—and, if so, you’d be partially correct. A Time to Betray involves many intense moments, but its primary focus is on the choices that Kahlili and his two childhood friends made growing up in Iran, along with the sometimes-deadly consequences.
One of those friends, Kazem, always took religion seriously, hated the Shah, and, when the Shah was overthrown, became a supporter of Khomeini and a devoted member of the Intelligence Unit of the Revolutionary Guards.
Soon after the Shah’s overthrow, Kazem asked Kahlili to join the Guards. Having just returned from studying in the United States and being eager to help improve his country, Kahlili joined. Looking back today, he explains that, like many Iranians, he naïvely believed Khomeini and the mullahs would keep their promise not to force their faith on Iranians.
Kahlili’s other childhood friend, Naser, was not so naïve. Although he, too, was happy to see the Shah overthrown, Naser began speaking out against Khomeini soon after. He explained his reasons to Kahlili:
“Look around, Reza. Everything is changing. Banning the opposition parties, shutting down the universities, attacking whoever disagrees with them. They’re taking our rights away. They’re arresting innocent people for nothing more than reading a flyer.”
I tried to calm him down, attempting to soothe my own rattled nerves at the same time. “We’re in a transition, and change is always difficult. Maybe you should be more careful. Things will get better, you’ll see.”
Naser took a moment before speaking again. When he did, there was pain in his voice. “I wish I felt the same way, Reza. I don’t want to argue with you, but if people don’t speak up now, it will only get worse.” (p. 60)
Numerous times, we see the young Kahlili not wanting to take sides, simply wanting everyone, in spite of everything, to get along. Indeed, this approach appears to have been his MO from childhood. Kahlili writes that, as a child, he found it tough just to stand up to his mother and friends. How could he, as an adult, stand up to the government of Iran? Something compelling would have to happen—something that threatened or assaulted his values on a personal level. Unfortunately, something did.
The regime arrested Naser and took him to Evin Prison, where he was tortured and then repeatedly forced to watch his younger brother being beaten and his younger sister being raped. Hearing of where Naser was being detained, Kahlili used his good standing in the Guards to visit him there. Inside, Kahlili saw some of the atrocities only whispered about outside the prison walls, and he finally recognized the nature of the regime he was working for. From that moment, he felt intense guilt for his involvement in the Guards. And he became more curious; he wanted to know what even he, as a member of the Guards, was unauthorized to know about what went on in that prison.
He soon learned the full extent of the atrocities being committed in Evin from the suicide letter of a young woman who suffered them. At that point, Kahlili explains, he could “no longer remain quiet and watch [the] country disappear into a morass of evil.” But what could he do? Upon reflection, he realized:
I needed to go back to America, to the one other place I’d ever called home. America was one of the true superpowers in the world, and I was convinced that Americans didn’t really know what was happening inside of Iran—and that if they did, they would do what they could to come free us. Someone needed to tell them about the atrocities. (p. 97)
Using as an excuse a sick aunt and his duty to repay the help she had offered him when he had been in America studying, Kahlili, with the help of an oblivious Kazem, made it back to the States. There, Kahlili says, he shared with the CIA everything he knew about the Guards, expecting that to be that. But the CIA asked Kahlili if he would be willing to work for them, as a spy embedded in the Guards. Given the obvious and profound danger involved, Kahlili was reluctant, but wanting desperately to save his country from the evil regime, he agreed. His training began immediately, and he was soon back in Iran, undercover.
Kahlili recounts various missions and events, sharing his thoughts and fears along the way. He also conveys what this decision meant for his relationships with family and friends. For example, he relates how his grandfather hated the clerics, in particular their attempt to force their religion and way of practicing it onto others. He quotes his mother calling those who supported them “donkeys,” “jackals,” “traitors,” and “imbeciles” (p. 64). And he shows how his continued involvement with the Guards repeatedly threatened to end his marriage.
The same Kahlili whom many referred to as a coward now faced the certainty of torture and death if he were exposed as a spy and the damnation of those he loved so long as he continued working for the Guards.
Unfortunately, despite Kahlili’s efforts, America was doing little with the information he provided them, instead responding to new threats with ever more appeasement. As a result, Kahlili became increasingly disheartened and began questioning whether he should continue working for the CIA. In one passage, he writes:
I had been risking my life to rid my country of the criminals running it and the Americans were negotiating with them. The CIA knew that the Guards were responsible for the barracks bombing in Lebanon that took the lives of 241 American servicemen. They knew that their own people, William Buckley, were being kidnapped, tortured, and killed. Yet they were offering appeasement to these two-faced donkey-riding mullahs. (pp. 250–51)
After much deliberation, Kahlili decided both to leave the Guards and quit working for the CIA. To discover how he managed to implement these decisions, you’ll have to read the book, which I highly recommend.
A Time to Betray delivers much more than inside information about the ever-growing Iranian threat and the corresponding evasions of the U.S. government. The primary value of the book is that it tells a true story of a man of remarkable courage, the kind of man we desperately need more of today.
Joel C. Rosenberg (New York Times best-selling author)
Far and away the best book I’ve read this year was A Time To Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside The Revolutionary Guards of Iran by Reza Kahlili. A reporter friend of mine at CBN first told me about Reza and the book and I bought it on Kindle in April. Wow! Loved it, loved it, loved it. I started reading it and literally couldn’t put it down. It’s a spy story so riveting and a love story so moving that at times I found myself having a hard time breathing, and other times was wiping away tears. I’ve never read a book that took me inside life in revolutionary Iran in 1979, or inside life in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the 1980s, so compellingly as this one does. It’s a must read.
At first, Reza gives us his back story and shares that he was so excited about the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. But then he begins to witness the horrific acts of evil done by the “Supreme Leader” and his followers. He witnesses arrests and tortures and rapes and hangings — even of friends…by friends. And then Reza makes the decision that will change the course of his life forever. On a trip to California to care for his dying aunt — but without telling his wife — he contacts the FBI and offers information about the objectives, methods and leaders of the IRGC in exchange for political asylum for himself and his wife. His hope is that the U.S. will use the information to bring down the tyrannical Khomeini regime and in the process save many lives. The FBI immediately puts him in contact with the CIA, and a CIA official says they would be happy to give the Kahlilis asylum in the U.S. However, the CIA contact explains that what he really wants Reza to do is to go back to Tehran and become a double agent for the Agency inside the IRGC. How Reza makes his decision, how the Agency trains him, how he penetrates Iran’s secrets and communicates them back to his handlers, and the anxiety and tension he faces every step of the way makes for a stunning read. Heart-breaking is Reza’s inability to tell his wife, or her family, or his family, or any of his friends what he is doing, much less why. They are all increasingly disgusted with Khomeini and the revolution and are, therefore, increasingly angry and distraught when Reza starts growing a beard, appearing more devoutly Muslim, and appears to throw himself so passionately into the dirty work of the revolution, getting promoted and more responsibility along the way. The tension becomes unbearable, and threatens Reza’s marriage.
Also heart-breaking coming to the realization that for all the risks that Reza took for the U.S. government, how little Washington has actually ever done to bring down the murderous and apocalyptic regime in Tehran. Reza’s exasperation with American officials who keep trying to negotiate with or kowtow to the mullahs and ayatollahs is palpable in the book. For so long he felt like he was betraying his native country of Iran and his family on behalf of the CIA. Yet in the end one wonders if he was betrayed by that very Agency and the political leaders who oversee it in Washington. In recent months I have had the opportunity to get to know Reza over the phone, and in person, and have been deeply impressed by his courage and resolve. It was an honor to be able to interview him and show that interview at the 2011 Epicenter Conference. Though he no longer works directly for the CIA (though he does teach at the Pentagon’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Center), Reza is clearly still a man on a mission: to liberate the people of Iran from one of the most evil monstrosities of our time, especially before Iran gets nuclear warheads. I applaud him for what he’s doing, and I encourage people to support his efforts. But I’ll tell you what I’ve told him: Iran is going to be liberated, but not by the President of the United States or by Congress or by the CIA, but by the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39 and Jeremiah 49 reveal that the God of the Bible is going to harshly judge the leaders of Iran in the “last days” and pour out His Holy Spirit and His blessings on that beautiful country and it’s people. He will do so because Iran’s leaders have cursed Christ, the Church, and Israel. The Bible shows us the road to Iran’s liberation will be a very tough one, and the Lord commands us to pray for the people of Iran and to reach every Iranian with the gospel. Reza’s book shows us why the Iranian people are so desperate for the kind of hope and change only Christ can provide.
Joel C. Rosenberg : SUMMER READING RECOMMENDATIONS: Top pick, “A Time To Betray”
Central Intelligence Agency – The Intelligence Officer’s Bookshelf
Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake
Hayden Peake is curator of the CIA Historical Intelligence Collection. He served in
the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations.
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, by Reza Kahlili. (New York: Threshold Editions, 2010), 240 pp.
Details in his book have been changed for security reasons—Reza Kahlili, for example, is a pseudonym—but that hasn’t diminished the punch of this unusual story. Kahlili grew up in Iran but in the early 1970s went to college at the University of Southern California where he lived with relatives. He returned with a masters in computer science in time for the revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Motivated by the end of the shah’s oppressive regime and visions of a Persian renaissance, Kahlili joined the Revolutionary Guards’s computer division. He might have remained an obscure programmer had not one of his childhood friends joined the operational element of the Guards and sought his assistance setting up a database of dissidents. When several of his dissident friends defied the regime, Kahlili witnessed the cruelty they endured, especially the women, who were routinely executed. When the US embassy was seized and its occupants taken hostage in 1979 he learned of the brutal treatment the Americans received at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards and discovered that the incident was anything but a spontaneous act of students. Such events convinced him he was witnessing the creation of a corrupt, unjust, iniquitous, Islamic fundamentalist Iran.
Kahlili decided to tell the world the truth about life in Iran and took leave to visit a “terminally ill” relative in Los Angeles. Once there, he contacted the FBI and through them the CIA. He writes that his intent was merely to ask their help in revealing what was happening in Iran. To his surprise, the CIA offered him an alternative opportunity—become an agent and penetrate the Revolutionary Guards. And that is what he did.
After training in the United States and London, Kahlili returned to Iran and began reporting. In this book he describes the communication techniques he used and outlines the kind of details he provided and the methods he employed to avoid detection. Despite his careful adherence to procedure, he did come under suspicion, but he survived, thanks to the fortuitous death of his accuser. He also married but did not tell his wife about his secret life. Sometime in the 1990s—he does not date his experiences—the stress became evident to himself and his family. He got permission to visit London and from there, with CIA help, he took his family to the United States. Living under a new name, he became a citizen. His son graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001. By then his wife knew of his former clandestine life.
In his review of A Time to Betray, David Ignatius said he initially doubted this incredible story. But after using his impressive contacts and eventually speaking with Kahlili by phone, Ignatius suggested the CIA should view the book as “a virtual recruitment poster.”1 But the book is also a very important contribution to the understanding of contemporary Iran and the role of intelligence in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism.
Journal of the American Intelligence Professional
Unclassified articles from Studies in Intelligence Volume 54, Number 3
Jan. 2011 – Book of the Month
“A Time to Betray” is a spy thriller for the ages. It reads like a novel and has the chilling impact of a skillfully written spy story. However, the author is not a fictional character; Reza Kahlili, for decades, led the double life of an undercover agent. He was both a member of the feared Iranian Republican Guard and a trusted informant for the American CIA. Of his initiation as a spy, he writes, “Duality defined me now.”
“Wally,” his CIA code name, was born in Iran and grew up during the reign of the American-backed Shah of Iran. Back in those days, Iran was a blend of ancient practices mixed with an open dialogue with the progressive social faction. Young Reza Kahlili (not his real name) led a somewhat privileged life and enjoyed the ongoing debates between the traditionalist beliefs, dating to the ancient times of Cyrus the Great, and the modern wide-eyed Iranian youth movement.
In 1972, Reza’s father, seeking the best for his son, sent young Reza to the United States to be educated at USC. For Reza, the total immersion into the computer sciences and American college life impacted him deeply. Like most students at that time, Reza became deeply involved with the Iranian on-campus student movement. He and his friends became excited about the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and his successful overthrow of the Shah. Reza returned to Iran and offered his services to the newly established Khomeini regime. He quickly became a trusted member of the soon-to-be-feared Republican Guard.
For progressive-minded Iranians the new regime rapidly became a nightmare. The Ayatollah and his black-bearded Guard acted quickly to crush any Iranian dreams of shaping a legitimate democratic government. And they hastily instituted a rigid form of an Islamic theocracy. Even worse than the Shah’s dreaded SAVK police, the movement fielded three levels of revolutionary paramilitary armed forces: the Republican Guard, the Komati and the Basij.
The Iranian people were subjected to all forms of terror-filled abuse. Rigid dress codes were enforced, and people were repeatedly beaten and jailed for breaking a wide range of perceived anti-Islamic laws and behaviors. And any civil rights that Iranian women had enjoyed, simply vanished. The scowling religious police, spurred on by the harsh decrees of the Mullahs, publicly stoned convicted women to their death.
The time had come: Reza returned to the United States to assist his aging aunt, but he took the opportunity to offer his services to the CIA. After extensive examination, Reza was trained as a spy in London before he returned to Iran. From deep inside the government in Tehran, Wally reported on Guard activities to his CIA contact. During the eight-year Iranian-Iraq war, Wally provided the CIA with a multitude of vital wartime intelligence.
Wally’s story is the stuff of deep intrigue coupled with a need to constantly lie to his family, coworkers and dear friends. A spy is never out of danger, and Wally constantly had to check his “Six.” Reza’s CIA handler straightforwardly announced, “The United States government will deny any relationship to you. There won’t be a navy coming to your rescue.”
The volume confirms many commonly held assumptions about Iran’s connection to Hezbollah, “The Party of God,” and their aggressive meddling in Middle East politics. The book affirms Iran’s close connection to Hezbollah, the Beirut bombings and their anti-American aims surrounding the Iran-Contra scandal. Wally helped the CIA codify aspects of Iran’s darker terrorist activities and involvements, including the Lockerbie, Scotland, air disaster. And Wally helped the CIA to become aware of Iran’s earliest attempts to become a nuclear state.
To this very day, Reza Kahlili argues that the United States should not attempt to negotiate with the current government of Iran. Their aim, he maintains, is to create the necessary setting for the prophesied return of a religious leader known as the “Mahdi.” However, it is believed that before the fabled Mahdi’s return, the world would be engulfed in fire, chaos and famine. Reza writes: “People like Ahmadinejad so completely believed that these conditions would hasten the return of the twelfth Imam that they were willing to foment universal war, chaos and famine to bring it about.”
Within this transfixing volume, one may experience the stress of Reza’s life when he worked as a spy for the CIA. The reader can sense Wally’s fears and frustrations as they develop with the turn of each and every page. Well written, and erupting with unexpected twists, Wally’s story is a sure bet for any enterprising movie producer. By betraying his country, Reza hopes someday to save it from the horrors of Islamic fundamentalists’ madness.
Reza is optimistic that one day Iran will rise from the shadows and become a shining example of a democratically governed Islamic nation state.
Editor’s note: This book was recommended to Leatherneck by Colonel Tim Geraghty, USMC (Ret), commander of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, part of the Multi-National Peacekeeping Force, in Beirut, Lebanon, in October 1983 when the Marine barracks was destroyed by terrorists, killing 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers.
With this review, Bob Loring, a voracious reader of Marine-related books, marks his 75th review for Leatherneck readers. He has opened new doors for the professional development of our readers, and we appreciate his efforts. Those who have read his reviews also know that he is a tireless worker for the Marine Corps League and the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Congratulations, Bob.
By: Milt Rosenberg (Nation’s leading author interviewer)
…A charming Mark Twain, Tom Sawyerish sort of escapade…Compelling new book…Most thrilling,exciting and also very disturbing…Very Important new book…
By: Yossi Melman / November 26, 2010
Recently, Kahlili published a book called “A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran” (Threshold Editions ), in which he tells his life story. It is a fascinating read, full of intriguing anecdotes – the story of three childhood friends from Tehran, who as adults found themselves on parallel and conflicting paths. One is a religious man who followed the mullahs and became a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards. The second is secular and joined the Marxist Mujahideen Khalq (the People’s Army ) movement, which ran operations against the Shah and American diplomats, was declared a terror organization, linked up with Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamists in the battle against the monarchy, and is now considered an opposition organization and a firm opponent of the regime. And the third is Reza Kahlili himself, who believed in Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution until he sobered up and volunteered to serve as a CIA agent…
A Time To Betray – Review
The Right Truth Book Club
By: Debbie Hamilton / May 31, 2010
A Time To Betray – The Astonishing double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. Reza Kahlili (not his real name) was born and raised in Iran, came to America for his college education, then returned to Iran. Reza Kahlili, seems to represent the heart of the Iranian people who love freedom, America, peace, and are not religious fanatics in any way. Khalili’s friend gets him a job with the Revolutionary Guard working with computers, not realizing what he is getting into.
When Kahlili does realize what is happening in his country, beginning with the ouster of the Shaw, the takeover by the mullahs, the rise of the Revolutionary Guards and abuse by those in power, he decides he must contact the FBI.
Kahlili’s two closest friends from childhood take different paths as adults, one joining and rising in the ranks of the Revolutionary Guard. The other friend is arrested, tortured, executed, in Evin Prison along with his little sister, who suffers the same treatment as all girls and women — rape, torture, starvation and eventually execution.
The FBI connect Kahlili with the CIA and be begins sharing vital secrets he learns from high-ranking Revolutionary Guard members and others. The secrets revealed in the book, the intrigue, the mixed feelings Kahlili has working as a spy, keeping his actions secret from everyone he knows and loves, makes the reader feel like a fly on the wall — seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling what Kahlili experiences.
Eventually Kahlili, his wife and son get safely to America, but the trip isn’t quick and it isn’t easy. For almost three decades he keeps his actions as a spy from everyone, including his wife. When he finally confesses to her, she insists that he tell and this book, A Time to Betray is that public confession.
In the book we learn never-before mentioned facts: Iran has been pursuing a nuclear weapon for 25 years; previously unknown facts about Lockerbie and the Iranian connection; details of the Iran-Iraq war and the Iran-Contra affair. Kahlili reports to his CIA handler almost immediately about Iran’s support of terror groups in Lebanon, Syria and other places, Hezbollah and Taliban training and arming.
Just yesterday U.S. General Stanly McChrystal said there is clear evidence of Iranian activity — in some cases providing weaponry and training to the Taliban, and training Taliban inside Iran. This isn’t new today and it certainly isn’t “news” to Reza Kahlili who informed the United States of this over 20 years ago.
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and say if you do not read it you are missing out of the book of the year.
Iranian betrayer thrills with spy tales
By: Jim Fletcher / WorldNetDaily Exclusive Commentary / May 25, 2010
Even in a world that seems to have befriended evil, there is perhaps no more menacing threat than Iran. Persia has risen and wishes to hold a sword to the throats of anyone not under the sway of Islam.It is not only Iran’s sociopath leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who threatens, however, it is also the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, who serve as point men for his ideology. Spreading a malevolent blanket of hate across the once-progressive Iran, these storm troopers help export terror around the globe. The race for nukes is but one component of their diabolical plan.
So it is that another brave voice is casting a message and warning about Iran.
Sadly, the author of a scintillating new book, “A Time to Betray,” must use a pseudonym, Reza Kahlili, for this project. A native Iranian, he now lives in the U.S. His tales of being inside Iran as a CIA operative are surely among the most important and hair-raising anyone will read this year.
Raised in an idyllic setting in Tehran before the Islamic Revolution, “Reza” saw his life unfold in much the same way as freedom fighters through the ages: a close-knit family and friendships and a bright future are shattered by the totalitarian aims of brutal dictators. When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini assumed power in 1979, plunging the world into a new kind of war, Reza became a member of the Revolutionary Guards.
Today, his poignant recollections surely tug at the heartstrings. He not only believes the nation’s young people want a free Iran, but he has staked his life that it can happen.
In the book’s beginning, Reza’s account of being shaped as a CIA operative is gripping; for some inexplicable reason, the Agency gave him the code-name “Wally.” He was then told bluntly that if his spying operation went awry, he was expendable.
Years before becoming a spy, Reza came to study in America and embraced the free lifestyle of California, but when his father died at 50, he returned home. This traumatic event coincided with growing unrest over the Shah’s rule over Iran. Into this volatile mix Reza returned to his home country. Though Reza went back to America to finish his studies, as bitterness toward the Shah increased (in no small part due to political assassinations), Reza and many others of his age began to turn slowly to their Islamist spiritual roots.
It is quite ironic that the highly capable Iranian people were under the heel of both a harsh dictator (albeit one who “kept the peace”) and later the Ayatollah. They deserve much better.
Back to Reza and his ultra-dangerous work. The Iranian leadership after the Revolution engaged in torture and terror against its own people to such a degree that the normal human mind can’t conceive it. It was into this cauldron of danger Reza willingly went.
Tellingly, after coming to power, the Ayatollah lied convincingly, assuring the world that an Islamic state would be a guardian of freedom!
One of many fascinating stories in “A Time to Betray” involves the failed American attempt to rescue the embassy hostages in 1980. Reza recognized that a natural disaster – in the form of a sandstorm – had derailed the American attempt. His Revolutionary Guard buddies were overjoyed, thinking it was a direct intervention by Allah.
A later, an equally chilling story centered around Reza recalling how the one-time leader of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, boasted about supplying the munitions for the deadly Marine barracks attack of 1983 in Lebanon. He said they’d sent hundreds of Americans to hell with that one action.
This is what we’re up against, my friends, and Reza Kahlili is to be commended for coming out of the darkness to tell us just who we’re dealing with, in ghastly detail.
Eventually, out of conviction that his country must be freed from this latest form of tyranny, Reza agreed to become a CIA spy. From being watched during a coded mail drop, to interacting with friends who had no idea – for the moment – that he led a double life, Reza operated in danger, minute by minute. But the information he provided the CIA about Iran’s secret police and infrastructure proved invaluable.
Equally harrowing were his dispatches to his CIA contact during the terrible days of the Iran-Iraq war. It is quite fascinating to learn of Iranian thoughts of America from an Iranian insider.
This book reads like a spy novel and is riveting. For readers who enjoy that kind of information, “A Time to Betray” is a “can’t miss.” Beyond that, it provides a fascinating and crucial window into a world the rest of us cannot access.
“A Time to Betray” is a time to absorb a thoroughly absorbing account of a very brave spy.
A Time to Betray: By Reza Kahlili- Book Review
Canada Free Press
By: Sayeh Hassan.
Published on Monday, May 24, 2010
“A Time to Betray” is the real life story of Reza Kahlili (not his real name) who leads a double life as a dreaded Revolutionary Guard and a CIA Agent for close to 10 years. This book is an exciting thriller that is hard to put down. It also raises some interesting issues and questions.
One of the issues I found most fascinating in the book was the discussion of the relationship between the United States Government and the Islamic Regime. Kahlili describes in his book reporting to the CIA in detail about the human rights violations, brutal torture, rape and execution of opposition as young as 15-16 years old in the Evin Prison. He discusses the involvement of the Islamic Regime including the so called “moderate” Hashemi Rafsanjani in terrorist activities and hostage taking abroad, and yet it’s disturbing to see that the reaction of the US Government is to “negotiate” with the Islamic Regime on numerous occasions. This lack of concern for human rights violations committed by the Islamic Regime both inside and outside of Iran, which continues to this day under Obama Administration is disturbing, but perhaps not surprising…
The second issue I found interesting was Kahlili’s revelations about the Regime’s activities abroad in relation to the “opposition” or suspected opposition. As an activist deeply involved with pro-democracy activities for many years I have had my share of threats and disturbances from the Islamic Regime. Reading about how the Regime sends “agents” abroad in order to infiltrate opposition groups, spy on and threaten opposition and even assassinate them from Kahlili, a former Revolutionary Guard gives these threats a whole new air of reality, which may not have been there before, at least for me.
Further I found it fascinating that the Regime feels threatened enough to send agents abroad to infiltrate opposition. This is something that I have been writing about for many years, but having it confirmed by a former Revolutionary Guard is certainly gratifying.
After finishing this book I was left with one major question. Why did Mr. Kahlili choose to continue working for the CIA for so long after seeing over and over that the information he was providing for CIA was not helping the Iranian people he so desperately was trying to protect? One wonders if there may have been better ways for Mr. Kahlili to use his position in the Revolutionary Guards to help rid Iran of the Islamic Regime…
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it was written in a simple yet sincere and touching manner and brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion (not an easy thing to do.) The revelations in the book are interesting and serve as a remainder of the brutal human rights violations committed by the Islamic Regime against the Iranian people.
Down with the Islamic Regime in Iran
Long Live Freedom in Iran
Sayeh Hassan is a Toronto based Barrister & Solicitor and owner of Shiro-khorshid-forever.
Author reveals details as U.S. spy in Iran
The Post and Courier
A TIME TO BETRAY: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran. By Reza Kahlili. Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster. 340 pages. $26.
The publisher assures us that this is the true story of a CIA agent working inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Accepting those assurances, it is easy to understand why the names of the author, his family, friends, and presumably his several CIA handlers have been changed.
Reza Kahlili asserts that it was also necessary to adjust the details of some events so as to preclude discovery. Additionally, it is reasonable to assume that the fine hand of the CIA had some editorial authority. It is actually somewhat surprising that the CIA even permitted the release. While accepting the truth of the fundamental story, some events and relationships seem to be more the work of his screenwriter than the author himself. Hopefully, he has retained the film rights.
That said, the story is entirely believable and tracks well with known history. There are some revelations nearly buried in the engrossing story that were not common knowledge; such as his statement that Iran has been pursuing a nuclear weapon for 25 years. Previously unknown facts about Lockerbie, the Iran-Iraq war and the Iran-Contra affair are also revealed.
Kahlili grew up in a high-rent district of northern Tehran. He and two boyhood friends evolved in three diametrically different political directions. Kahlili went to UCLA for a degree in computer systems engineering, a skill later needed by the Revolutionary Guards.
After returning to Tehran for his father’s funeral, he found that Iran was moving in a direction he vowed to combat. At great personal risk he decided that he could best influence events by spying for the U.S. Since his wife and family were adamantly opposed to the mullahs and the now fundamentalist government, his double life created great stress in his personal life.
While the story is greatly affected by the classic literary dilemma of resolving terribly conflicting motives, it would be right at home on the pages of today’s current events.
Booked / By: Hannah Elliott / May 20, 2010
A new memoir, A Time To Betray, puts author Reza Kahlili at such risk that it is published under a pseudonym.
Kahlili was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard member who worked uncover as a CIA agent during the 1980s and 1990s. The book chronicles the horrors Kahlili witnessed and follows the steps that led to his decision to approach the FBI with top-secret information about Iran, while on a vacation to visit his ailing aunt in America.
A Time To Betray is certainly a thriller, with Iranian intelligence always only one step behind Kahlili’s next move. But Kahlili also writes about an idyllic childhood and illustrates the Iran that disappeared after Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution.
We asked Kahlili about his book, his family and how America can improve its relationship with Iran…
How often do readers have the opportunity to experience a unique glimpse into the mind of an Iranian CIA operative?
A Time To Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran Reviewed By Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com
May 7, 2010
Author: Reza Kahlili
Publisher: Threshold Editions (A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc)
How often do readers have the opportunity to experience a unique glimpse into the mind of a CIA operative, particularly one who witnessed the 1979 Iranian revolution and its disastrous aftermath, which still prevails today?
Reza Kahlili ( not his real name) was no ordinary Iranian. He was a member of the dreaded “Sepah-e-Pasdaran, the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards and was privy to some extremely invaluable information.
In 1981, after witnessing the murder and executions in cold blood of his close friends and the lack of freedom that had been promised by the Islamic government to its citizens, Kahlili decided to become a spy for the CIA. He had enough of the merciless bloodshed, raping of young girls and “thugocracy”of the ignorant and treacherous mullahs that engulfed his country.
This was not an easy decision for Kahlili to make, as he would be betraying his wife, son, parents, grandparents and his country. He would be leading a double life, wherein half would be that of a loving devoted husband and loyal member of the Revolutionary Guards, and the other half would be reporting to the CIA every salient fact about the Guards. He would now be entering a world of deception, suspicion, lies, and secrets. This no doubt would put everyone in danger, and he wasn’t sure, how long he could keep up the facade without being discovered-a prescription for certain torture and death. Nonetheless, as he recounts, it was his duty that obliged him to commit treason against an outlaw regime. This was the only way he believed that he could bring democracy and fairness to the Iranian people.
In A Time To Betray, Kahlili recounts how he passed along critical information to the CIA, such as the names and positions of the Revolutionary Guards’ commanders, their connection to other radical groups and their plans to export their treacherous Islamic beliefs all over the world. In addition, readers are given some informative background material concerning the political and social climate that reigned in Iran prior to and after the revolution in 1979.
It was quite surprising to read that when Kahlili first met with the some CIA agents, they kept calling the Revolutionary Guards “the Red Army,” confusing them with the Soviet Union. If this is true, was the CIA asleep at the switch? What did they know about the revolution and the ambitions of Ayatollah Khomeini and his henchmen? How many other agents did they have working for them in Iran at the time of the revolution? Before meeting with Kahlili, did they know anything about the dreaded Evin prison and Asadollah Lajevardi, the head of the Iran Prisons Organization, and whom Iranians referred to as the “Butcher of Evin?” Here was a beast who murdered thousands of prisoners and had their blood drained in order to use the plasma for soldiers injured in the war with Iraq. In fact, Kahlili mentions that he was surprised how little the Americans knew about what was going on in Iran such as the three branches of the armed forces that were formed after the revolution and that some of the Guards were trained by The Palestinian Liberation Organization. When one of the CIA agents told Kahlili that they were concerned that Khomeini was extending his tendrils of control to surrounding nations, Kahlili assured him that this goal had been accomplished. These are just a few of the fascinating revelations brought to light in A Time To Betray-a book that reads like a great spy thriller.
SPY MEMOIR SPEAKS VOLUMES
DOUBLE AGENT’S TRUE STORY READS LIKE SOMETHING JOHN GRISHAM DREAMED UP
BY NICHOLAS ADDISON THOMAS
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Sunday, May 2, 2010
A POLITICALLY broken landscape serves as a powerful backdrop in “A Time to Betray,” author Reza Kahlili’s haunting journey through the religious underbelly of a divided and troubled Iran. Equal parts astonishing and disturbing, this perfectly crafted memoir will open your eyes to the heinous past, troubled present and murky future of Iran. The reader can down a dozen Mountain Dews in one sitting, and she still won’t get the same jolt she would from reading this story about the double life of a CIA spy in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Kahlili (a pseudonym to protect the author’s identity) was raised in Tehran in the 1960s, where he bided his time playing with best friends, learning about his country’s history and engaging new depths of Islam. When he attends college in California, however, all that changes. The days of structured existence are supplanted by Corvettes, babes in bikinis and raucous music. A new approach to life is established, until Kahlili’s father unexpectedly dies and he returns to Iran. Back on his native soil, Kahlili discovers that the country he loves is torn between adopting a radical or traditional approach to Islam and Iran’s governance structure. He decides to enroll in the Revolutionary Guards, a notorious military unit supporting Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution . He quickly learns to hate the war, due to the government’s blatant lies and the obscene torture of his countrymen. This compels Kahlili to approach the U.S. and serve as a spy, code name “Wally.” From this point on, he’s a double agent, supplying America with key information and serving in the ranks of a destructive militia. It’s a deadly assignment, but one Kahlili hopes will help change the course of Iran’s destructive path . Tales of anguish, hardship and unfounded persecution abound in this masterful tale, forcing the reader to accept the fact that the news he sees on CNN is barely scratching the surface. Using insider information, Kahlili excels at painting an enthralling portrait of a country impacted by religious and political extremism. What makes “A Time to Betray” so powerful is two fold: First, the story reads like a John Grisham novel. Second, the narrative is refreshingly objective. Throughout his gripping journey, Kahlili ping-pongs between being a devoted son of Iran and a U.S. supporter. The emotion this produces creates an astonishing read that will have you rethinking what you know about the Middle East.
Nicholas Addison Thomas is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.
A TIME TO BETRAY By Reza Kahlili
(Threshold Editions, $26)
Book review: A Time to Betray
April 13, 2010 by Ed Morrissey / Hot Air
When the Iranian revolution succeeded in seizing power in 1979, young people like Reza Kahlili heralded it as a triumph of freedom and liberty over the oppressive monarchy of the Shah. Instead, it began a nightmare journey for a nation and for three friends, Reza, Kazem, and Naser, which would drive wedges between them and send them to three very different destinies. Kazem would become a true believer in the ruling Islamist mullahs, Naser would oppose the new tyranny — and Reza would lead a double life doing both, working as an inside man for the CIA as a member of the Revolutionary Guard. Reza Kahlili tells the story of his espionage and his eventual flight from Iran in A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, which has just hit bookstores.
Written as a memoir, Kahlili (not his real name) describes the pre-revolutionary days in honest terms, reliving the relatively petty tyrannies of the monarchy. Without that basis, the revolution itself and the joy with which the Iranians received it can’t be fully understood. Reza also writes about his first escape to America in the years prior to the revolution and the start of his life-long love affair with the US, initially as a college student. He returned home to Iran believing that the freedom and liberty he had experienced as a student at USC would soon dawn in his native land. He joined the Revolutionary Guard in its infancy and watched in horror as he became a part of a far greater tyranny than the one he had known as a child. That horror forced Reza to do what he could to get the truth out to the West and attempt to stop the mullahs from enslaving his country.
The book subtitle promises an “astonishing” double life, but it’s most remarkable when it comes to the mundane. How does a man keep his betrayal a secret from the most intimate people in his life — his wife, his best friend, the mother who despised his affiliation with the regime? Kahlili pays a heavy price for his double life, all while running the risk of endangering these same people to the twisted torture of the Iranian government. Most readers will connect most deeply with Kahlili’s personal journey.
However, the critical lessons of A Time to Betray are those that expose the true nature of the Iranian regime. Kahlili writes with a passionate hatred of its atrocities, describing them in horrid detail and the difficulty of maintaining the facade of approval while secretly passing the information to the CIA. Kahlili also writes of his disappointment with the US government in its repeated and futile attempts to achieve a rapprochement with the mullahs in Tehran. He explains how the mullahs honestly believe that they will bring the conflagration that their messianic cult of Islamists claim will bring their Twelfth Imam into the world to spread Islam across the globe. They have no desire to have normal relations with the West, and especially not the US and Israel, both of whom they want destroyed.
These days, I don’t get to read too many books due to the demands of my work. I took A Time to Betray with me to the SRLC in case I had some time to kill, but actually didn’t get the chance to start reading it until my flight home. Only my work schedule forced me to put the book down for a while, and as soon as I had the chance, I finished it. It’s a compelling read, one that not only talks about the true nature of the Iranian regime but also of the Iranian people, who have now twice tried to free themselves from the yoke of lunatic mullahs trying to destroy the entire world for their dreams of eternal power. Kahlili may have betrayed the regime, but only because of his desire to be loyal to the Iranian people.
I interviewed Reza Kahlili last week, before I had read the book. We talked about the nature of the regime more than the book itself, but Kahlili gives some good background for the book as well.
David Ignatius reviews ‘A Time to Betray,’ the memoir of an Iranian double agent
Sunday, April 11, 2010
A TIME TO BETRAY
The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran
By Reza Kahlili
Threshold. 340 pp. $26
How true does a “true story” have to be? This question immediately confronts a reader of “A Time to Betray,” by the pseudonymous Reza Kahlili.
The book opens with this encompassing disclaimer: “This is the true story of my life as a CIA agent in the Revolutionary Guards of Iran; however, every effort has been made to protect my identity (Reza Kahlili is not my real name), my family, and my associates. To do so, it was necessary to change all the names (except for officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran) and alter certain events, chronology, circumstances, and places.”
If we cannot depend precisely on the who, what, where or when in a nonfiction memoir, then what do we have? You don’t need to be a professional skeptic to wonder if the basic claim of the book — that the author was a CIA mole inside Iran’s fearsome Guard — is accurate.
So I did some checking. And I am happy to report that the author did indeed have a secret relationship with the CIA. That’s a relief, because the story he tells — of the Iranian revolution and how he came to despise it — is genuinely powerful. It offers a vivid first-person narrative of how the zealots of the Islamic republic created what has become a nightmare for the Iranian people. By the author’s account, the cruelty and intolerance didn’t begin with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They have been unfolding for three decades.
Since the bona fides of “Kahlili” are crucial to the credibility of this story, let me share some detective work: Three former CIA officers who ran Iranian operations in the ’80s and should have been knowledgeable said they had never heard of such a significant penetration of the Guard during this period. Maybe the case was super-restricted; maybe it was seen as relatively low-level. I can’t say.
A current U.S. government official, however, did vouch for Kahlili’s role as a spy. “I can’t confirm every jot and tittle in the book, but he did have a relationship with U.S. intelligence,” the official said.
I spoke with Kahlili’s lawyer, too, who told me that the book was “submitted for prepublication review” at a certain unnamed U.S. government agency and that this agency confirmed that Kahlili did have an operational relationship. Eventually, I found one of Kahlili’s former case officers, who described him as “legit” and “a very brave guy.”
And finally I talked with Kahlili himself. He was using a Darth Vader-style voice modulator, which seemed a little silly since he was calling from California. But I guess ex-spies are entitled to their paranoia, not to mention their publicity stunts. He offered more details that reinforced the integrity of the book.
What truly makes this story believable is the character of the narrator. Kahlili is a kind of upper-middle-class Iranian Everyman. He begins the story as a beer-drinking, girl-chasing Iranian student in America during the late 1970s. He is drawn into the radical cause via the student movement, embraces his Muslim faith and returns home just after the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah and installed Ayatollah Khomeini. He describes a “brief, shining moment” under Khomeini’s banner that felt to him like “the beginning of a Persian Renaissance.”
Kahlili’s companions on this revolutionary journey are two childhood friends, whom he calls “Naser” and “Kazem.” They are all swept up by the ayatollah’s fervor, but Naser and Kazem are opposing poles on which the story turns. Naser is a secular, idealistic fellow, and he moves toward the leftist organization known as the Mujaheddin, which becomes a bitter antagonist of the regime. Kazem is a deeply religious man who joins the Revolutionary Guard and rises steadily in its intelligence operations, pulling the author with him.
The crisis comes when Naser and his younger sister are arrested, brutally tortured and finally killed. Kahlili is honest enough to see that this is a perversion of the revolutionary ideals he has been fighting for — and he swears revenge. He takes it in a way that only a very brave person would dare, by contacting the CIA during a trip to America and offering to spy for the United States.
One of the strengths of this book is that it makes the author’s decision to betray his country — or, more properly, the people who are running it — seem like a morally correct and laudable action. Indeed, people in the Iranian operations division at the CIA should welcome “A Time to Betray” as a virtual recruitment poster. Kahlili meets a series of smart and sensitive case officers; he’s given a code name (in the book it’s “Wally,” which has a ludicrous ring, but maybe it was real); he’s taught secret writing and other tradecraft to disguise his communications as ordinary letters; and then he’s sent back into Iran as a CIA spy.
I won’t spoil the book by telling how the story evolves, but it’s a good espionage yarn. I have no idea what Kahlili left out in the telling, but his putative intelligence reports, which he prints in italics, seem incredibly squishy. If that’s all the poop he provided, no wonder others in the agency didn’t hear about him.
One detail that is entirely credible is how little the CIA seems to know about what’s going on inside Iran. Talking with his first case officer, “Steve,” the Iranian observes: “I didn’t realize until Steve started debriefing me how uninformed the U.S. was about the ayatollah’s activities in the Middle East.” The agency doesn’t seem to have known about the scope of the Guard’s activities or the extent of its contacts with the Soviets, for example.
At one point in the mid-1980s, Kahlili worries that Iranian intelligence operatives are wise to his encoded postal messages. The book should have mentioned that by the late 1980s, the Iranians had noticed similar letters going to postal addresses in Europe, and a whole network of spies was rolled up, with disastrous consequences. The Iranians certainly know that history, as do some readers of American newspapers, which have reported the mail screw-up in detail; so, I’m sure, does Kahlili. Leaving it out of this book weakens its authority.
As the tale progresses, we realize we are reading not so much a spy story as a national tragedy. The passionate idealism and yearning for democracy that gave birth to the Iranian revolution are perverted, year by year. Kahlili’s disgust and remorse compelled him to take action, but America mostly sat on its hands. “The West needs to do something,” he tells one of his case officers in the mid-’80s. “If we allow the Guards to go unchecked, the consequences could be devastating for the region — and the world.”
Kahlili had that right, and a lot of other things as well. After finishing this book, this reader recalled a line from Arthur Miller’s play, “After the Fall,” which asked: “Why is betrayal the only truth that sticks?” I wish we could be more certain about the details in this story, but even so, the basic message sticks hard and true.
David Ignatius is a columnist and associate editor for The Washington Post. His new novel about Iran, “The Increment,” is out in paperback this month.
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.
Kahlili, Reza. — Library Journal, 4/5/2010 10:25:00 AM
Threshold Editions. Apr. 2010. c.352p. ISBN 978-1-4391-8903-0. $26. INT AFFAIRS
The author, who writes here under a pseudonym to protect his identity, was born in Tehran, and, after attending university in California, returned to Iran and joined the country’s Revolutionary Guard in the closing years of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s reign. Not long after the Islamic Republic was established he became disillusioned with its fundamentalism because of the arrest, torture, and execution of his friends and many others. He writes of how he made contact with U.S. intelligence agencies, and thereafter reported from inside the Guard for several years. The moral ambiguity of spying on his country and his friends in the Guard, as well as fear of the consequences to his family if he were to be caught, eventually led him to flee the country, eventually obtaining permission to come to the states. His book makes clear that the Guard was claiming to its domestic audience a wider role in international incidents than has been recognized in the world press, e.g., in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Khalili is critical of U.S. policy toward Iran and disillusioned that his information did not lead to stronger action by the several administrations that received his reports. VERDICT Readers usually get stories of life inside Iran from journalists, e.g., Elaine Sciolino’s Persian Mirrors. This is the first inside account by someone so strategically placed. Without embellishing, Khalili manages to convey the horror of Iran’s regime after the downfall of the Shah. Everyone with an interest in the region or in U.S. foreign policy or in real-life espionage will be interested.—Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., NY
A Time to Betray
April 02, 2010
By: Michael J Totten
Reza Kahlili joined Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and quickly became disillusioned when he saw young people tortured and murdered in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Repressing his countrymen was not what he had in mind when he signed up. Rather than quit and place himself and his family under suspicion, he contacted the CIA and agreed to work as an American agent under the code name “Wally.”
So begins one of the most riveting and suspenseful memoirs I’ve ever read.
It’s one of those rare books that grabs you from the very first page–from the very first sentence, in fact–and will not let you go until it is over. Set aside a day so you can read it in one sitting.
Regional specialists will want to pick this one up because it presents an insider’s look at a sinister and secretive military organization, but it should also have a wide appeal to a general readership. It reads like a novel that could, and perhaps should, be made into a feature film.
A Time to Betray is a great place to start if you’re looking for a compelling narrative of modern Iranian history and politics, but unlike the vast majority of books about the Middle East, this one also works perfectly well as straight entertainment. You can read it as a nail-biting plot-driven tale of revolution, terrorism, espionage, and war set in an exotic location. You can also read it as a powerful human story of a man torn in two by the terrible choice he made to betray his country in order to save it. Or you can just let the author be your eyes and ears inside the government of the country that is the biggest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world and that may well become a nuclear-armed regional superpower.
The book succeeds smashingly on every level, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Ex-Agent Chronicles Being CIA’s ‘Eyes and Ears’ in Iran
Tuesday, 30 Mar 2010 10:16 AM
By: Ken Timmerman
A former Iranian Revolution Guards officer who spied for the CIA in Iran for nearly decade is telling his story in a new book that will hit bookstores next week.
“A Time to Betray” provides a riveting account of how the author, who uses the pseudonym Reza Kahlili, worked undercover and sent intelligence reports to his CIA handlers, all while a suspicious counterintelligence officer was chasing him.
During that time, he was “our eyes and ears in Iran,” a CIA handler told him.
Kahlili spoke to Newsmax recently about the double life he chronicles in the book, subtitled “The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.” His greatest frustration, he said, was not being able to persuade his CIA handlers of the threat from Iran’s rulers…