A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iranby Published 06 Apr 2010
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A true story as exhilarating as a great spy thriller, as turbulent as today’s headlines from the Middle East, 2010 National Best Books Award-winning A Time to Betray reveals what no other previous CIA operative’s memoir possibly could: the inner workings of the notorious Revolutionary Guards of Iran, as witnessed by an Iranian man inside their ranks who spied for the American government. It is a human story, a chronicle of family and friendships torn apart by a terror-mongering regime, and how the adult choices of three childhood mates during the Islamic Republic yielded divisive and tragic fates. And it is the stunningly courageous account of one man’s decades-long commitment to lead a shocking double life informing on the beloved country of his birth, a place that once offered the promise of freedom and enlightenment—but instead ruled by murderous violence and spirit-crushing oppression.
Reza Kahlili grew up in Tehran surrounded by his close-knit family and two spirited boyhood friends. The Iran of his youth allowed Reza to think and act freely, and even indulge a penchant for rebellious pranks in the face of the local mullahs. His political and personal freedoms flourished while he studied computer science at the University of Southern California in the 1970s. But his carefree time in America was cut short with the sudden death of his father, and Reza returned home to find a country on the cusp of change. The revolution of 1979 plunged Iran into a dark age of religious fundamentalism under the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Reza, clinging to the hope of a Persian Renaissance, joined the Revolutionary Guards, an elite force at the beck and call of the Ayatollah. But as Khomeini’s tyrannies unfolded, as his fellow countrymen turned on each other, and after the horror he witnessed inside Evin Prison, a shattered and disillusioned Reza returned to America to dangerously become “Wally,” a spy for the CIA.
In the wake of an Iranian election that sparked global outrage, at a time when Iran’s nuclear program holds the world’s anxious attention, the revelations inside A Time to Betray could not be more powerful or timely. Now resigned from his secretive life to reclaim precious time with his loved ones, Reza Kahlili documents scenes from history with heart-wrenching clarity, as he supplies vital information from the Iran-Iraq War, the Marine barracks bombings in Beirut, the catastrophes of Pan Am Flight 103, the scandal of the Iran-Contra affair, and more . . . a chain of incredible events that culminates in a nation’s fight for freedom that continues to this very day.
A TIME TO BETRAY was the winner of The National Best Books 2010 Awards for Non-Fiction Narrative. It was also honored as the “Finalist” in the “Autobiography/Memoirs” category. It is now part of JCITA’s (Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy of DOD) Iranian Program’s readings.
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran Reviews
This book is a good read ! It is a page turner. The author beautifully captures the relationships, culture and the environment he grew up in Teheran. The book is a memoir rather then a spy thriller. There is a lot of focus on the tensions the authors spying creates with his family , his sense of guilt and describing the life of normal Iranians under the Ayatollah. He talks about the information he shared with the CIA but does not go into much detail on how he collects that information. There are a few moments of suspense & thrill , some clandestine meetings but not many details on his spying activities . I think some of it is driven by his desire to protect the people who are still in Iran as well as his handlers in the CIA.
As with most memoirs, facts and perspectives get skewed. The authors message is that the radical Islamic State in Iran is responsible for perpetrating unimaginable atrocities against the people of Iran as well as funding radical activities in other countries in the Middle East. I don’t know how true his descriptions are but the happenings in modern day Iraq and Syria seem to mirror his descriptions of Iran in 1980. There is definitely an element of embellishment and a decent amount of hearsay. I have a hard time believing that he could get authoritative information on Iran's nuclear program or that the program existed at all. By his own admission he was not very high up in the Revolutionary Guard totem pole. I have always been fascinated by the Middle East. It is the cradle of civilization. It is sad to see how long that entire region has been mired in conflicts of every kind.
Overall I like the book. Its a well written perspective of one man. It also resonates with the current times. We have our own mini-Khomeini going in Trump :)
Excellent book to read. Run and don't wait to read it. It will change you forever.
This was a hard book to read, and i have read a goodly amount about Evin prison, and a man who was Persian born, and a hostage, along with the other American hostage, but the extra one, asked me to write his book. I was too knew of a writer to do so. He has since passed.
Most people know there are 7 Baha'is in Evin right now, and much has been written of them. In fact the journalist who was freed writes about them also in her book. This book was hard, because the suffering was immense, the brutality so real, and his mission so gripping and I as a reader was always worried for his safety.
the hand of fate will simply visit those who torture others, and we in this generation cannot know when or how, and it isn't with vengeance I comment so; it's just that nothing we do goes unknown in a higher dimension.
I think the book it a must in that it gives tremendous insights into the suffering of the ordinary citizens of Iran and yet the heroic acts of some. My heart goes out to all who suffer.
As an Iranian-American who was born after the revolution but has had chances to visit Iran several times for significant periods of time, I find Mr. Kahlili's book to be both breathtaking and a testament to the horrors and pain inflicting upon the Iranian people to people like my grandfather to my little cousin. Reza Kahlili exemplifies his story as a young man attending USC to becoming a Revolutionary Guards member once the Revolution hit Iran in 1979. Mr. Kahlili allows the reader to understand how good and secular people were washed up into the fervor of the Islamic Revolution in 1979' and how such a madman such as the Ayatollah Khomeini was able to lie and brainwash a people with such a rich culture and ancient history.
Mr. Kahlili's book is wrote in a manner that both the simple reader can easily comprehend along with an elegant prose that the more extensive reader can quickly get through. His story is more of a human story that not only details his spying days, but of his relationships with his family members and friends since childhood that both contributed to both the revolutionary fervor that was able to sweep him up during the revolution along with the values and ideals that his parents and grandparents taught him that allowed him to say "enough is enough, it's a time to betray" in joining the CIA for the sole purpose of helping Iran become free from tyrannical tyrants.
"It's very important to understand this mentality of martyrdom and radical conviction. They truly believe that one day Islam will conquer the world. If we allow the Guards to go unchecked, the consequences could be devastating for the region - and the world."
This quote comes from Mr. Kahlili's book and I think highlights the situation so well with Iran. The Iranian regime is a regime that has occupied and sent Iran back into the stone ages for the past 32+ years in a process I uniquely term "de-evolution". This is a regime that does not think in "this world" but rather makes decisions based on prophecy and world ending messianic beliefs. They go so far as to rape virgins before executing them so that they "don't go to heaven". This is a barbaric and primitive regime that has occupied the once great nation of Iran and the entire international community must understand that negotiating is not an option with these madmen. This regime will not be happy and will not rest until the "return of the hidden imam" and will do everything to facilitate this end-of-the-world prophecy including starting wars and allowing millions of Iranians to die for their fanatical beliefs. The international community must stand by the side of the Iranian people in overthrowing this barbaric regime. It is the right thing and necessary thing to do for not only insuring that Iranians have the opportunities to live in dignity, peace, and freedom but the international community will get rid of itself of a barbaric and dangerous regime that endangers world peace with their nuclear activities and ambitions.
Reza Kahlili (not his real name) of the Revolutionary Guards became a spy for the CIA when Iran came under the thumb of Ayatollah Khomeini. This is his story.
I read this book primarily because I wanted to know more about the events that occurred before and under Ayatollah Khomeini. As far as that was concerned, the book didn't disappoint.
Kahlili writes very clearly about the events that eventually toppled the Shah and thus made Khomeini the unchallenged leader of Iran. And while people were not totally happy under the Shah, they were at least content as they had some little liberties in their private lives which they cherished. Ayatollah Khomeini changed all that. As USSR became a totalitarian state under the guise of Communism, Iran became a police state under the pretense of religious fanaticism. Iran's rulers interpreted their religion as per their convenience.
After his childhood friend was tortured and shot by the fanatical regime, Kahlili became disillusioned by the Iran government’s promise to build a proper state for its citizens. As a result, he became a CIA spy operating in Iran. I think he took this step more out of obligation to his dead friend, although he states in his book that by being a spy he wanted to let the US know what was happening in Iran which would eventually convince the USA to pressurize the Khomeini regime to mend its ways which would bring peace to his country. If he truly believed that, he was being naïve. And he actually admits that himself in the concluding chapters of the book. International politics has never worked that way. Never has, never will.
His spying didn’t improve the conditions in Iran which he hoped might happen due to the intervention of outside world (Nobody intervened, as anybody might have guessed right from the start even without the benefit of hindsight), but at least Kahlili could have the personal satisfaction that he hurt the repressive regime in some indirect ways which took away his friend and everybody else’s personal freedom in Iran.