A true story as exhilarating as a great spy thriller, as turbulent as today's headlines from the Middle East, 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 American government.
It is a human story, a chronicle of family and friendships torn apart by a terror-mongering regime, and how the adult choices of three childhood mates during the Islamic Republic yielded divisive and tragic fates. And it is the stunningly courageous account of one man's decades-long commitment to lead a shocking double life informing on the beloved country of his birth, a place that once offered the promise of freedom and enlightenment---but instead ruled by murderous violence and spirit-crushing oppression. Reza Kahlili grew up in Tehran surrounded by his close-knit family and two spirited boyhood friends. The Iran of his youth allowed Reza to think and act freely, and even indulge a penchant for rebellious pranks in the face of the local mullahs. His political and personal freedoms flourished while he studied computer science at the University of Southern California in the 1970s. But his carefree time in America was cut short with the sudden death of his father, and Reza returned home to find a country on the cusp of change. The revolution of 1979 plunged Iran into a dark age of religious fundamentalism under the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Reza, clinging to the hope of a Persian Renaissance, joined the Revolutionary Guards, an elite force at the beck and call of the Ayatollah.
But as Khomeini's tyrannies unfolded, as his fellow countrymen turned on each other, and after the horror he witnessed inside Evin Prison, a shattered and disillusioned Reza returned to America to dangerously become "Wally," a spy for the CIA.
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“Genuinely powerful.... People in the Iranian operations division at the CIA should welcome A Time to Betray as a virtual recruitment poster.” (The Washington Post)
Conservative Catholic Curmudgeon
An interesting and absorbing account. However, some of his accounts of unverifiable conversations seem a bit too convenient to the image of himself he is trying to present (e.g. confronting his friend about the morality of his role in the regime right before the friend gets killed).
A Time to Betray is Reza Kahili’s story of how he became disillusioned with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and came under the influence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides a unique insight into the role of the CIA in information gathering in the country, life under the religious fundamentalism, and how working as a double agent affected Kahili’s family life. In this regard, this is more of a memoir. Anyone looking for a hard hitting expose of how the CIA worked during Kahili’s era might be disappointed. However, the book carries a lot of human interest and insight into how the life of a spy can disrupt an entire life. Segments of the book seemed a little melodramatic to me, but my personal preferences should not deter one from enjoying this excellent book. The reading of Richard Allen is excellent.
Have you EVER wondered just HOW the U.S. finds people to spy on their own country? I always found that a bit puzzling. The author was right in the center of Iran as many historical events happened going all the way back to the 1970's. He was very pro-American before the Iranian Revolution, and was constantly torn with his loyalties, double life and deadly secrets. Many times I felt seriously moved by the author's tale. Other times, I felt like a fly on the wall in a different era in Iran. I felt that I learned something about another country and their people. I had ONE reservation....in the back of my head, I constantly wondered if this story is exactly what it claims to be. I kept getting a feeling that many parts of this book were compiled from multiple sources, intelligence reports and real spy stories, then rewritten as a coherent first-person narrative. The book gives a face to problem. It strongly supports a military agenda against Iran, and (at the end) even suggests that Iran assisted with September 11th. Either way, this story can't all be propaganda....there is something still very human at its center. Lastly, the narrator here gives one of the best audio book performances I've yet heard. He captures a wounded kind of nobility that really brings this story to life. Still....totally worth the read!
The writing is fantastic and so is the story. I speak Farsi and found myself in agony over the narattor's accent. It sounds more like a Congolese accent than a Persian one. This killed it for me and took away a lot from the experience. If you can handle Tehran being pronounced in an African accent then this presentation will be totally great for you!
I am having trouble listening to this. The reader is trying to fake a Persian accent, but sounds hobbled and unintelligent instead. The main character is not a foreigner in his own country, why is the reader trying to sound foreign? A regular and more fluid English reading would have honoured the millennia old Persian literary tradition much more.
This story is interesting and about a very secretive society in a very secretive country
Someone with a Persian accent should have been cast or alternatively someone that can impersonate a Persian accent. This guy does a terrible job and his fake accent isn't close. I've spent lots of time in the Middle East and have Persian friends. It's just irritating to hear a voice so far off base.
Good insight on the inner workings of a Moslem led government. This proves the value to me the value of a separation of church and state.
Very compelling and well written account from a young Iranian who experienced first hand the pleasures (as a member of a well to do family) of pre-Khomeini Iran and the horrors of the Khomeini regime and its successors. The story covers a lot of ground, including his days as a foreign student at USC to his witnessing the torture and murder of the family of his closest childhood friend at the hands of the twisted regime that governed Iran after Khomeini came to power. The book is very well written, with a personal, candid account of the author's loves, fears, and moral dilemmas as he moves forward to work with the CIA as the only course he sees open to counter the horrid regime that has taken over Iran.
All that said, the author advises that names and places in his story have been changed to protect his identity and that of his family, for obvious reasons. In that regard, I strongly suspect that many of the stories and adventures he recounts in this book may not be episodes in his own life, but accounts that he had heard from others. Still, he makes their stories his own in a gripping and very exciting book. An unfortunate eye-opener about the true nature of the most extreme elements in the Iranian regime.
Purchased this book because it was advertised as a true story. Anyone who has worked in the intelligence community will be able to quickly see this is a work of fiction based around historical events. Even if any of it is true, the title is a lie. This guy would have been an informant for the CIA, not an agent. Huge difference. It doesn't really matter though because this a "Tropic Thunder" of a book. Probably riveting for all the fiction readers, but for nonfiction readers it's garbage.
This is perhaps the best book I have listened to this year. The narrator is excellent and you will be unable to put this book down. This book gets close and personal as a single man tries to free his country from the grip of terror brought about by Islamic terrorist. It is too bad our country has turn a deaf ear to the cries of woman and children that are being slaughtered on a daily basis in Iran.
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