Friday, April 30, 2010

A Time to Betray, by Reza Kahlili

A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of IranSome time ago, I read a book called Saddam's Bomb Maker, by an Iraqi defector, which detailed that leader's efforts to gain nuclear weapons. This book reminded me very strongly of that. It's the first person story of an Iraqi man who finds himself recruited into the Republican Guards in post-Islamic-revolution Iran, disturbed by the deeds being committed by the regime, who voluntarily contacts the CIA and becomes an informant. His tales of his double life in Iran are quite interesting, but I'm not sure just how big a grain of salt I should take with it.
Reza grew up with two close friends, Naser and Kazem. Reza and Naser were apparently upper middle class, and lived in a nicer section of Tehran, while Naser's family was poor, and he grew up in the slums, eventually falling into radical Islam. Reza went off to study at UCLA, getting a degree in computer science in the mid 70s. After the revolution took place, and Khomeini returned from exile, Kazem was appointed to the Republican Guards, and found a position for his friend, Reza, in the organization. Naser became involved with the opposition party, and eventually was arrested, along with his younger brother and sister. They were all tortured and executed for treason and apostasy. This event and others like it motivate Reza to return to the U.S. on a purported visit to his aunt, and contact first the FBI and through them the CIA.
According to Kahlili, he fed them information for nearly ten years about all of the nefarious activities of the Guard. Strangely, most of the events he described never made an appearance in the news media, and the U.S. government did nothing to capitalize on his information. They continued to misunderstand the motivations of the mullahs in charge in Iran, thinking that they were reasonable people who could be bargained with, when in actuality the mullahs and their puppet "elected government" were committed to bringing first the Middle East and eventually the world under the domination of radical Islam.
There are some good hair-raising adventures in this one, such as when Reza and Kazem are ordered to the front to supervise the deliver of fresh troops, and come under artillery fire, or when the two of them are driving in Tehran and are attacked by mujahedin. Kahlili lays the responsibility for many of the terrorist attacks in the Middle East at the feet of the Revolutionary Guards and Council, from training terrorists, sending assassins after opposition leaders in Europe, supplying explosives and weapons, and even hints that the Lockerbie bombing was retaliation for the U.S.S. Vincennes downing of an Iranian civilian airliner in the Gulf.
An interesting read, but I'm awaiting corroboration from independent sources.

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