A former CIA agent who worked undercover as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps for over 10 years is calling for the United States to support regime change in Iran.
Reza Kahlili made his first public appearance after publishing "Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran," a memoir of his years working undercover for the CIA inside revolutionary Iran, at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
Kahili warns if not stopped, Iran will "hold the world hostage once the regime obtains nuclear weapons."
Even though he left Iran nearly 15 years ago, Kahlili still fears for the safety of his extended family back in Iran and so appeared in public wearing a surgical mask, sunglasses, and a baseball cap, and disguised his voice using a speech modulator.
He feels the world is moving toward a war with Iran unless the United States radically changes its policy.
“The reason I wrote this book was out of frustration that even to this day, we are trying to negotiate with this regime, instead of helping the Iranians with their aspirations of freedom and democracy,” he said.
The United States continues to try to change the behavior of the Iranian regime through economic pressure.
“Three decades of getting something wrong is enough to realize that a change of behavior is not going to happen,” Kahlili said. “That behavior has been the result of us not realizing the philosophy of the clerical establishment, the Islamic fanatics who’ve been ruling Iran from day one.
"Every U.S. administration has fallen for that. They’ve thought there could be a change of behavior, and therefore they engaged in back-channel negotiations, some of them shamefully.
“I want to tell you today that any kind of hope for change of behavior is a fantasy. It’s an illusion . . . it’s time to put an end to that.”
For 30 years the U.S. has sought negotiations with Iran. Because of that, “today we are heading for war,” Kahlili believes. “The last choice we have right now is to come out of our shells and vocally support the Iranians and their aspirations for freedom. Cut all diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime: The European allies should do that. Cut all shipping lines, air space, put extreme pressure on the regime.”
Such moves will create “cracks” within the ruling elite and prompt top level officials to flee the country, paving the way for a popular uprising, Kahlili believes. “Regime change is the only solution for the stability of the Middle East, for the future of the world, a better future. To think that we can contain these people and deter them once they obtain a nuclear bomb is another fantasy that is going to blow up in our face.”
American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Ledeen, who has written several books on Iran, agreed that U.S. support for regime change was “a moral and strategic obligation. America is the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and most people in the world who are living under tyranny know that and look to us for support,” he said.
U.S. support for pro-democracy forces inside Iran does not require a military intervention or covert support for the opposition.
Ledeen added, “If the president of the United States stood up tomorrow and said, We stand with the Iranian people; we condemn these horrible violations of all principles of human rights, from women, to dissidents, to freedom of religion, to freedom of speech, it would have an electrifying effect in Iran. And [President Obama] is better placed than most presidents [to do that] because he’s gone all out to try to show that if you just talk nicely to them and have this conversation, you can work it out peacefully.”
Reza Kahlili warned that the consequences of misunderstanding the ideology of Iran’s clerical rulers could be disastrous: “The ruling clerics, the fanatics right now in power, truly believe in the return of the last Messiah, the Shiites’ 12th imam, the Imam Mahdi.
“This is not a joke. This is not a story. This is not something in comic books. They are counting the days for the reappearance.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei both believe that their actions can hasten the return of the 12th imam.
“They believe that if they detonate nuclear bombs over Israel and the Persian Gulf, bringing horror and a breakdown in the global economy, this will result in the Imam Mahdi coming out of a whale riding a white horse, killing the rest of us,” Kahlili said.
“Our problem is that we are trying to evaluate Iran and its leaders for the past 30 years through a rational mind, because we are used to rationality here.”
Western leaders think they can find economic pressure points and incentives that will compel the Iranian regime to change its behavior, even though this approach has failed, he said. “Our problem is that we cannot think outside the box.”
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