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A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran Hardcover – April 6, 2010
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...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. --By: Hayden B. Peake - CIA - The Intelligence Officer's Bookshelf
...A charming Mark Twain, Tom Sawyerish sort of escapade...Compelling new book...Most thrilling, exciting and also very disturbing...Very Important new book... --By: Milt Rosenberg (Nation's leading author interviewer)
Far and away the best book I've read this year.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...
--Joel C. Rosenberg (New York Times best-selling author)
"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."
--Ed Morrissey, Hot Air
"...the story [Kahlili] 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... 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."
--David Ignatius, The Washington Post Book world Review
"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, Library Journal
"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."
--Ken Timmerman, Newsmax
"Equal parts astonishing and disturbing, this perfectly crafted memoir will open your eyes to the heinous past, troubled present and murky future of Iran...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, THE FREE LANCE-STAR
"This is 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."
"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."
--Sayeh Hassan, Canada Free Press
"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: The Astonishing double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it…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…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."
--The Right Truth Book Club
"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."
"...A charming Mark Twain, Tom Sawyerish sort of escapade...Compelling new book...Most thrilling,exciting and also very disturbing...Very Important new book..."
"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."
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
I'm a hard-hearted guy. I don't cry at sappy movies. But Khalili's rendering of his two best friends and their youthful idealism, and the separate paths they chose in the Iranian Revolution, repeatedly got me choked up. The story is tragic and horrifying, the espionage is nail-biting, and as the risks get more intense, I kept saying, "I can't believe this guy is doing this!"
I stayed up all night reading this, surprised the author waited over two decades to tell his story-- why not cash in on his heroism back in 1988?-- until I realized he's driven by one mission, which can be summed up as: "The governing mullahs in Iran cannot be negotiated with, because they've been explicitly planning Armageddon all along." If we can't trust this insider, who can we trust?
I'm not an effusive guy, just groggy from lack of sleep after I stayed up all night with this book. I dare you to read page one. Get hooked by this story and remind yourself what courage is really all about. Our nation should work for a free Iran, if only because the culture produces sterling characters like this author and his childhood friends.
This book wears a mask. Behind the mask there is neither Mister Phelps nor a tape that will self-destruct, but there is an almost unbelievable bundle of real flesh and blood courage and there is a real `Mission Impossible.' Without the mask there would be no book, or only a posthumous one.
So, for God's sake put aside reservations about filters and pseudonyms and fictionalized settings for this stunning first-hand account of a double agent living a double life one heartbeat away from certain death, deep inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.
Read the book.
If it doesn't change your life, it will change your outlook.
It did mine. It changed my view of Iran, which I previously believed to be a nation of madmen. Now I know it is only ruled by madmen, but, just under the surface, it is the home of unmatched heroism.
Despite the vast gulf between our life histories, I feel a kinship with Reza, the man who lived this double life. He came to America as a young man when Shah Pahlavi was still in power and Iran lived in unbalanced prosperity without freedom. Reza drove around in a shiny red Mustang with mag wheels, enjoying his youth just like I did in my shiny red Oldsmobile 442. If we had passed each other on the highway, no doubt we would have waved.
While we were driving around in our shiny red muscle cars, Reza and I were similar in one other respect: we both had two close friends of the kind that might hand off a frog instead of shaking hands just to mock our superiors--or as easily die for each other. Like my friends, Reza's loved American Westerns and each had our favorite hero. Reza's, like mine, was Steve McQueen.
A three-legged stool is a very stable object, but a friendship composed of three souls is likely flawed by a weakness that we both experienced: At any given time, one of the three friends is a little on the outs with the other two.
My own triumvirate of friends morphed when one of us drifted off into a different life; Reza's ended suddenly and tragically. You will have to read the book to find out how.
Despite its title, "A Time to Betray" is a tale of courage and of love, not of treason. Love permeates. It is true love, a commitment that sustains Reza's relationship with his beautiful wife Somaya and their son Omid through stresses no one would willingly tolerate. Most of us would simply curl up and die, or, if we are more cowardly, walk away muttering "Who needs this?"
Aside from Somaya, my favorite character is Reza's Grandpa, Agha Joon, who admonished the young Reza to "Grow old, young man"--grow up, you child. Grandpa was a wise man, able to distinguish the similarities between the despot Shah Pahlavi, and Ayatolla Khomeini who succeeded him and mounted the infamous Iran Hostage Crisis that took Jimmy Carter's presidency down to defeat against Ronald Reagan.
Agha Joon, Grandpa, has more to tell. I know it.
I took four pages of notes as I read "A Time to Betray." The only time I take that kind of trouble is when I'm reading an extraordinarily important book, one that explains the present as well as the past by illuminating truth through veiled fictional devices.
"A Time to Betray" is such a book. It helped me to understand Iran, and villains, and heroes, and love. It changed me -- changed my outlook on Iran, the world, and the United States of America.
This book is not without flaws. It has a cliché or two, like `thugocracy', not that I could think of a better term to describe Iran's current regime. It has a few awkward sentences, the meaning of which is clear. Arranged differently, they would read easier.
These are the flaws of filters and pseudonyms and fictionalized settings, and accountants, and publishing realities - and spooks. I'm grateful that the CIA did not quash it altogether.
Get the book and read it. Then log on to Facebook and listen to some of the interviews where Reza's voice is masked to save his life and that of his family. This is not Mister Phelps' world, I assure you. Despite its flaws, this is Mission Impossible" made real.
You are right there with him as he tries to carry on a normal life working for the Revolutionary Guards, all the while spying for the CIA. The events that turned him into a spy are heart wrenching. You get to know his family and friends as if they were sitting next to you. You feel the terror and sadness of the young people of Iran as they try to deal with a new Thugocracy that's taken over their country. You understand Reza's confusion and being torn, trying to find the right thing to do. You get anxious and feel the panic as he finds himself in situations that you know he can't get out, but he manages. He's still around.
This is the first book I've read about Iran (and I've read several) that paints an accurate picture of the Iranian culture, families, friendships, neighborhoods, home life, schooling, military and the government.
This book should be required reading for everyone in our government so they can understand what's really behind the intentions of the ruling clerics and Amahdinejad. This is an insider's front row view of what's really going on in Iran. Iran's ruling clerics are truly bad people who mean to do us harm and Kahlili clearly presents case after case testifying to it.
Reza Kahlili is an alias and after you read this book, you'll understand why he can't use his real name. I expect since radical Islamists won't know where to find him, they'll attack this book. After you read this book, you'll understand why they'll attack him. This is the most definitive indictment of the corruption and true intentions of some very nasty people.