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

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  854 ratings  ·  122 reviews

This exhilarating, award-winning memoir of a secret double life reveals the heart-wrenching story of a man who spied for the American government in the ranks of the notorious Revolutionary Guards of Iran, risking everything by betraying his homeland in order to save it.

Reza Kahlili grew up in Tehran surrounded by his close-knit family and friends. But the
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Threshold Editions (first published 2010)
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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
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
Shaherzad ahmadi
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
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
Esther Bradley-detally
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
This is the story of Iranian man in the Revolutionary Guards who becomes a CIA agent during the 1980s. From the title, it sounds like it would be an exciting book, but I didn't find it to be very suspenseful. I did enjoy 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.

The actual "spy" part of the book was somewhat tedious. The author dwelled way to
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
May 27, 2014 Libby rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mid-East Regionalists, Politicians, Sociologists, Psychologists, Military and Religion Historians
Recommended to Libby by: James
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 shared details of the aforementioned facets of his upbringing, and they made it easy to understand the internal, emotional confli
Anthony Roberts
"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
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
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
Karen C.
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
Jill Tabatabaei
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
*****************MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*************

This a memoir about a member of the Iranian revolutionary guard who becomes delusional with the Iranian revolution, its methods and its ideologies and then join the CIA as a double agent for America. The only problem i have with this book is that the author states right away, that names of people,places have been changed to protect identities of his family and close ones. Also some events have been altered for the same motive. While it can be re
Mohd Sufian
The author was a member of the feared Revolutionary Guards of Iran (RGI) shortly after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 and held a senior position there. After witnessing the torture and heinous crime inflicted upon political prisoners in Evin Prison, the author decided to betray his own country and became an agent for CIA. For years he managed to mask his covert activities and dispelled any suspicion casts upon him. He gained the trust from RGI members and at the same time channelling inf ...more
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.
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...
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.
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.
While not the best written book I've ever read, this was one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. I think it had a stronger effect on me because I'm Iranian, and the tragedy of what has happened in that country over the last 30+ years is particularly heartbreaking to me. But the author of this book is a true Iranian hero. He risked everything - EVERYTHING - in order to become a spy for the U.S., with the hope of doing something to end the brutal regime that took hold of Iran in 1979.

This book purports to be a true biography of a man who lived through Iran's revolution, became a member of the country's Revolutionary Guards, and spied for the CIA. There is no way to verify whether the story is true or not, but it is certainly compelling and reads like a spy novel. The author helps the reader to get into the mindset of Iranians on the eve of the revolution, and to explain their disappointment afterwards. The writing style isn't perfect, but overall very interesting and well-wr ...more
I found this to be a powerful and eye opening story of the Iranian revolution and how the author, who enjoyed a near idyllic childhood in Tehran and some fun lovin' college years in LA, went from embracing that revolution to despising what it became after a brief season of hope for democracy. Kahlili (a pseudonym) joins the Revolutionary Guard and fairly quickly finds himself in a moral quicksand that solidifies into a resolve to betray his government when a childhood friend, Naser, is murdered ...more
نزار شهاب الدين
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This is the second book I've read recently about the state of affairs in Iran. This one was written by a former member of the Revolutionary Guards, who came to the CIA offering inside information after he became disgusted by what happening inside his country. He saw the torture and death of his best friend and that friend's siblings, and was unable to do anything to stop it, and much, much more. He describes in detail not only what he saw, but also what contributions the world made to the growth ...more
After reading a few books on Iranian history and Iran/US relations, I was looking forward to this biography. Really, it is a story of three childhood friends and how their lives diverged as a result of political upheaval. "Reza" (a pseudonym) grew up in Tehran with two best friends; Nasar and Kazem. He attended college at USC. After his schooling he returned to Iran where the revolution was just hitting its stride. Kazem (a devout follower of the Ayatollah's) became a member of the Revolutionary ...more
Michael Connolly
This is the story of a young Iranian man who joined the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) and worked as a spy for the CIA to free his country from the mullahs. Reza Kahlili was valuable to the Pasdaran, because of the computer training he had received while a student at the University of Southern California while visiting relatives in the Los Angeles area. Reza turned against the mullahs when he saw the harsh way the Revolutionary Guards treated some of his friends. In particular, in Erin prison, ...more
The name is not the real author's name. If the Guard found him he would be killed and probably his family also. Almost 30 years as a spy for the CIA, dedicated in helping his country, Iran, to defeat the religious fanatics who now were ruling his country; and still are. As much as he gave the West important information it seems that they could never put it to good use to help the citizens of his country. When he finally realized this he gave up being a spy and is now spending time with his famil ...more
Chuck Ferlita
I just finished reading this book by former Iranian Guard turned CIA operative, Reza Kahlili. Regardless of your opinion on the current situation with Iran and how it should be handled, this book will give you an inside look at what is going on in the minds of the current regime.
I was in middle school when the Iranian hostage crisis took place. What understanding I had come solely from the few U.S. newscasts I watched. When you're in middle school you don't watch a lot news to begin with. That a
Gary Patton
"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
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