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A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,089 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
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 Americ ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Threshold Editions (first published 2010)
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Jan 14, 2013 Sassan rated it it was amazing
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 understan ...more
Shaherzad ahmadi
Apr 04, 2013 Shaherzad ahmadi rated it it was ok
Reza Kahlili doesn't beat around the bush about his intention in writing his memoir: "I wished that my adopted country [the United States] would step in and spread its democracy, freedom, and human rights throughout the world, and especially to my homeland." Where a careful memoirist would leave out the neoconservative preaching, Kahlili states his biases openly in order to explain his betrayal. He did not become a double agent because he was a traitor. He became a double agent to liberate Iran. ...more
Streed's  Reads
Jul 12, 2016 Streed's Reads rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Streed's by: James
Shelves: favorites
NOTE: book review re-posted in December 2015, after accidental deletion. Originally read, rated, and reviewed in August 2012.

Reza Kahlili's book, "A Time to Betray," shares the author's love of his homeland (Iran). Persian and Iranian history, traditions, special memories, family values and treasured relationships that Reza acquired while growing up shaped him into the great man that he had become.

The reader was instantly placed in a position of wondering about Mr. Kahlili's intentions. He shar
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
Dec 22, 2016 Pritesh rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 15, 2016 Yogeeswar rated it really liked it
This book provides much needed insight into the minds of a 'Radical Islamist' and their policies for running a nation. The author was a Spy, an Iranian, whose story can easily be a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Awesome book from the hands of a insider in Radical Islamist regime.
نزار شهاب الدين
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 09, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, cia, iran
In movies spies have a debonair confidence that belies the risk. In real life, as told by the person called Reza, it is nerve wracking, grinding, compromising, difficult work.

Through Reza's life we can get a picture of pre and post revolutionary Iran. Reza and his childhood friend Naser were "haves". Besides having free time and access to cars, Reza was able to study computer science in the US. Reza and Naser led primarily secular lives and their other friend, Kazem, was from a poor family, infl
Anthony Roberts
Jun 13, 2012 Anthony Roberts rated it really liked it
"A Time to Betray" is an insider's look at spying against your own people. It also speaks to the heavy toll a lifestyle of deception takes on one's soul. Life becomes nothing but stress, juggling lies and second-guessing, "Is this the day I will be exposed and bring about my death and that of my family?"

Reza Kahili (not his real name) grows up in the Shah's Iran and his story is one of witnessing a revolution betrayed. The Shah maintains control through the workings of his internal intelligence
Mar 08, 2013 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Excellent story of a man who lived a double-life, and the stress that doing so placed on him and his family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the country that Iran has become since their "revolution" in the late 70s / early 80s. Filled with insights from a man who was not only there, but was a first-hand witness to some of these events by virtue of his membership in the "Revolutionary Guard". At the same time, he was a paid agent of the CIA, ...more
Esther Bradley-detally
Jul 04, 2010 Esther Bradley-detally rated it it was amazing
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 bruta
Karen C.
Sep 01, 2010 Karen C. rated it it was amazing
This book is a page-turner, hard to put down, nicely written, great balance between personal and work life; you get a real sense of this man's anguish between his love for his country and his fear of betrayal. I have to say that I had a hard time understanding his fear of disloyalty and unfaithfulness. The way I see it as an outsider is that his country has been stolen. There is no Iran of yesterday; it has been hijacked. His fight was and is to create a free Iran, for his people and by his peop ...more
Jennifer Jacobs
Absolutely a must read!!Highly highly recommended!!
This is one of my 'One night stands' like this book kept me awake all the night to the next day!And the result was a very tired but ultimately triumphant me,as I read the boo literary in one sitting!!This book was THAT good:)
It is a tale of Reza Kaheli,a double agent who worked for both Iran and CIA!Due to 1979 coup/revolution and US embassy hostage crisis in the aftermath,CIA didnt have boots on the ground' of course,so the author was one of th
Dec 16, 2012 Shannon rated it it was amazing
It started slow for me. I didn't understand there was great significance to his childhood stories until I got farther in the book. So don't yawn your way through that part. There is relevance. This book was an eye opener to me and brought me to have sympathy for an enslaved people who I didn't know lived under such horrible atrocities. I think I thought Iranians liked Sharia and they stayed because they wanted to. I had no idea the people live under such tyranny and were not free. Thank you Reza ...more
Patrick Belair
This was another one of my thrift store finds,The title being enough to reel me in (plus the price was right),I was pleasantly surprised on what a good read this was.Mr Kahlili gives the reader his back ground growing up in Iran during the time of the Shah.

He tells of his early life growing up in Tehran in a very close knit family, his relationship with his close friends, his Grandparents and parents.Revolution comes and everything changes.He works for the Goverment and one of his friends is mur
Nic Adams
Nov 07, 2015 Nic Adams rated it it was amazing
Wow! What an insightful and really sad tale of Iran from the almost "carefree" days under the Shah to the lies and deceit of Ayatollah Khomeini ......the associated murderous and tyrannical rule over the years that followed.........the death of so many close to the author and his decision to become a "jasoos" (a traitor!) by working for the CIA in an effort to bring about change in Iran.
Considered weak by his own family for remaining part of the "new" order to be close to valuable sources of int
Jill Tabatabaei
Oct 27, 2011 Jill Tabatabaei rated it liked it
This book evoked a lot of the same feelings I felt when I read A Thousand Splendid Suns. It was very eye opening and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. My only criticism of the book is that it included a lot of political facts. Some were crucial to the story and others could have been left out. Sometimes I felt like just as I was getting totally immersed in the story, the author would spend 3 pages giving political facts. I know that understanding the politics helps paint the big pic ...more
Jun 02, 2016 Chris rated it it was ok
This is the story of Iranian man in the Revolutionary Guards who becomes a CIA agent during the 1980's. I enjoyed the first few chapters, which discussed what life was like during the reign of the Shah, the rise in popularity of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and how daily life changed after he took over the country. I didn't enjoy the actual "spy" part of the book as much. The author spoke quite a bit about his inner turmoil of leading a double life and having to lie to his family and betray his frien ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Michael rated it it was amazing
I rated this book so highly, not because of its literary qualities but because of its content. Rarely do we get to hear the story from the "other side" of the relationship between an intelligence service and its agent. Khalili's is a voice that deserves to be heard. The truths he shares about the people who today hold Iran and its creative, wonderful people in thrall should be required reading for all Americans.
Niki Lelieveld
Sep 13, 2015 Niki Lelieveld rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 09, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing
Incredible. Now want to devour everything I can on the Middle East. I feel like SUCH an ignorant American right now. Next time you feel like you don't have all the rights you deserve, read this book. You'll be humbled beyond belief. Thank you for sharing your story, Reza, and for opening my eyes to the harsh realities of the world beyond my borders.
Jan 19, 2011 Andy rated it it was amazing
Although this began somewhat slow and haltingly, this book quickly unleashed a powerful, gripping story. The horrors of war told by eye-witnesses was spell-blinding. Kudos to Mr Kahlili for his insightful, deliberate and intellectual style of writing. As with most other areas of life, there are many other forces at work behind the scenes which we never get see or realize. What an eye opener...
Nov 28, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2010
What a powerful story! I found myself holding my breath during several chapters! So glad I put this book at the top of my to-read list after I heard an interview with the author.
Jun 20, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-edition
Page turning biography.
Nikolas Larum
Oct 24, 2016 Nikolas Larum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
When I was a young teenager, I had a mentor who was a missionary living in Iran when the Islamic Revolution took place. She was a courageous woman and her eye-witness accounts of how demonstrations and riots broke out did much to help me see through what I was watching on the evening news. Some years after the American hostages were released from Iran, I read Ken Follett’s On Wings of Eagles, the story of the two EDS employees that Ross Perot made sure got home. Kahlili’s book rivals Follett’s o ...more
Gary Patton
Nov 09, 2012 Gary Patton rated it it was amazing
"People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within." ~ Ursula K. Le Guin (1929- ) US children's author

I found Mr. Kahlili's autobiography of his time in "The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps" disturbing but impossible to put down! Please read and recommend "A Time to Betray" to your Friends .

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym, used for obvious protective reasons, by the prior, undercover CIA agent who was a citizen and worked in Iran as a membe
Peggy Fegler
Oct 24, 2016 Peggy Fegler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So Sad

Reza tells us about growing up in Iran when the Shah was in power. He then attends college and grad school in California. He returns to Iran right before the Shah was overthrown. His childhood friend, Kazem, arranges a tech job for him in the Revolutionary Guard after the coup. Disillusioned by what he sees, he becomes a CIA agent. Interesting- the importance of family and the violence and cruelty in the name of Islam.
Oct 27, 2016 Prano rated it really liked it
Read this on a plane and cried so much for the oppression and treatment of Iranian citizens during the revolution.
I enjoy the heavy use of Persian words and the culture that was captured in the story.
Miguel Santiago
Jan 10, 2017 Miguel Santiago rated it really liked it
A Time to Betray was a thrilling book about the life of Revolutionary Guard member turning into an American spy. The Authors naive belief that America will step in an act on the best interest of the Iranian people was kind of shocking. In the last third of the book it seemed he realized this but seemes to change his mind abruptly. Would recommend this book to anyone intersted in Iran/American relations or wants a good spy book.
Tom Schulte
This is narrated by Richard Allen who I really enjoyed narrating Uncle Tom's Cabin and I think he would do a great The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He sounds to me like a West Indian background with a jovially expressive delivery that in this work at emotional parts and with Farsi words strikes me as distractingly mawkish, like having Jar Jar Binks handle the material.

As for the spy memoir itself, covering the 80s and the Iran-Iraq war, etc. it is a fascinating view into Iran-U.S. relations or lack
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