A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, by Reza Kahlili. New York: Threshold Editions, 2010. 352 pp. $26 (hardcover).


At the start of A Time to Betray, Reza Kahlili writes that this is “a true story of my life as a CIA agent in the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.” As such, you might expect it to be a fast-paced thriller—and, if so, you’d be partially correct. A Time to Betray involves many intense moments, but its primary focus is on the choices that Kahlili and his two childhood friends made growing up in Iran, along with the sometimes-deadly consequences.

One of those friends, Kazem, always took religion seriously, hated the Shah, and, when the Shah was overthrown, became a supporter of Khomeini and a devoted member of the Intelligence Unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

Soon after the Shah’s overthrow, Kazem asked Kahlili to join the Guards. Having just returned from studying in the United States and being eager to help improve his country, Kahlili joined. Looking back today, he explains that, like many Iranians, he naïvely believed Khomeini and the mullahs would keep their promise not to force their faith on Iranians.

. . .

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