Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran” as Want to Read:
A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,334 ratings  ·  161 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 ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Threshold Editions
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Time to Betray, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Time to Betray

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,334 ratings  ·  161 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran
Jan 14, 2013 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 ...more
Doreen Petersen
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Excellent book to read. Run and don't wait to read it. It will change you forever.
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
Feb 15, 2013 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
Ramon Remires
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-of-5
I enjoy stories of intelligence and espionage combined with real testimonies, and therefore, Sometimes even in the wee hours of the night, I find myself sitting in front of history programs on television and finding it difficult to part from them.

Among other things, I enjoy reading or hearing stories about clandestine and dangerous activity in countries where the chances of success are low, and I expect that the writer will find it necessary to create a happy ending for his story, yet, most
May 30, 2016 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 11, 2016 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.
Alireza Ramezani
I've been having this dual feeling as to write a review for this book or not. Does writing a review for this book adds up to its validity or undermines its contents by a fair meticulously massaged review. I think taking action has always been better than being passive.
This book, is written by a traitor about humanity, and freedom. How to carry the burden of this paradox on you while reading through the pages is something one has to experience himself. In the begging, the author tries to grab
نزار شهاب الدين
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Esther Bradley-detally
Jul 04, 2010 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
Karen C.
Sep 01, 2010 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 ...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
Dec 16, 2012 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
Nic Adams
Aug 22, 2015 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
Jill Tabatabaei
Oct 27, 2011 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 ...more
Mar 29, 2013 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 ...more
Niki Lelieveld
Nov 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 07, 2012 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.
Jan 12, 2011 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...
Feb 04, 2012 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.
Nov 18, 2010 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.
Nikolas Larum
Oct 24, 2016 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 ...more
Gary Patton
Nov 02, 2012 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
George Istaphanous
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cant wait until this book is made into a movie.
It’s a story of the atrocities happening in the Islamic republic of Iran since the revolution.
Details incriminate the Iranian regime and many times, the West, that sometime allow it.
I admire his courage and love for his country that allowed him to undergo such hardships in a resolve to bring back the Country of his childhood.
The details in this book are jarring but necessary to hear to get a sense of what happened and continues to happen to
Matt Randall
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Its always really great to learn about something that happened from a different point of view. We all know about the Iranian revolution in the 70's that resulted in the Iran we know today. But what about those people who lived there during the revolution and didn't fully buy into the religious hysteria? This story covers one mans journey from good Iranian to spy after seeing what happened when religion and politics combined.
Meghan Lazar
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reza is a gifted storyteller telling the story of the Iranian Revolution and subsequent rise of radical Islam through Iran. He is able to tell of the horrors the Iranian people were subjected to without being overly graphic... which is a fine line given the atrocities he witnessed. Reading his memories of his double life and the impact it had on him and his loved ones will change you. Highly recommend.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Read this book for a poli sci class. It was pretty good, but I think the writing was lacking... most likely because the author isn't actually a writer, but a real person with experiences related to the revolution in Iran.

I'd recommend this if you want to know about the atrocities committed by the IRGC.
Rebecca Rockenhaus
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
great book - you can feel all the things he's feeling as he recalls this season of his life. he portrays so much of his past with great detail and you can truly see and feel his heart for his country and his people. it's a very inspiring story!
Oct 27, 2016 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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Son of Hamas
  • Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan
  • True Norwegian Black Metal
  • Flying Saucers & Science: A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs
  • The Testament Of Solomon
  • Jonah Hex, Vol. 1: Face Full of Violence
  • The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic
  • Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83
  • Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex, Vol. 1
  • The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism
  • The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History
  • Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics (Perennial Classics)
  • Citizen Vince
  • The Shadow War: Inside the Modern-Day Undeclared Battles Waged Against America
  • When I Was You
  • The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook
  • This is It & Other Essays on Zen & Spiritual Experience
  • A Gradual Awakening
See similar books…