A former Iranian Revolution Guards officer who spied for the CIA in Iran for nearly decade is telling his story in a new book that will hit bookstores next week.
“A Time to Betray” provides a riveting account of how the author, who uses the pseudonym Reza Kahlili, worked undercover and sent intelligence reports to his CIA handlers, all while a suspicious counterintelligence officer was chasing him.
During that time, he was “our eyes and ears in Iran,” a CIA handler told him.
Kahlili spoke to Newsmax recently about the double life he chronicles in the book, subtitled “The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.”
His greatest frustration, he said, was not being able to persuade his CIA handlers of the threat from Iran’s rulers.
“I wrote this book to send a strong and clear message that this regime is a messianic regime and it will create chaos and havoc as mandated by Allah,” he said. “Have no doubt about this. Mutually assured destruction does not apply to the Iranian rulers.”
Kahlili started working as a computer specialist in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shortly after the 1979 revolution. But when a childhood friend and his younger brother and sister were executed in Evin prison two years later, he decided to become a spy.
Throughout his double life, he sent letters to his CIA handlers and received coded messages from them hidden in the text of radio broadcasts.
In 1985, he told his handlers that Iranian spies in Iraq and Europe had learned that Saddam Hussein was buying equipment on the black market for a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
“Ayatollah Khomeini won’t let it go unanswered,” Kahlili’s bosses in the Revolutionary Guard told him.
One year later, Iran signed a “consulting” agreement with Pakistani nuclear bomb designer A.Q. Khan, whose network provided them with uranium enrichment centrifuges and bomb designs.
“I am appalled that the information I passed on did not help the US government to prevent Iran from expanding its power,” Kahlili said. “IRGC commander Mohsen Rezai asked permission from Khomeini to develop nuclear weapons. That was one of the most significant bits of news I passed on.”
He also reported that the regime was using all government agencies in support of its overseas terrorist operations. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs became the center for intelligence and terror, with intelligence officers posted as ambassadors and consuls around the world,” he told Newsmax. These fake diplomats “moved explosives and arms” in official convoys, and orchestrated plots to assassinate Iranian dissidents.
“Basically, every entity of the Iranian government is connected to terrorism, working under the umbrella of the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards,” Kahlili said.
Kahlili also believes that Iran was involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks through Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, the former commander of the Qods Force who was named defense minister last year. Interpol wants Vahidi for his involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Argentina.
“Ahmad Vahidi’s contacts with al-Qaida went very deep,” Kahlili said. “Vahidi met repeatedly with bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and collaborated in joint terrorist activities, joint venture, such as Khobar Towers,” he said. “The focus should be on Ahmad Vahidi.
Kahlili was in London not long after a terrorist bomb destroyed Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 270 people on board. He learned from an Iranian intelligence colleague that Hashemi-Rafsanjani, then the powerful Majles speaker, had ordered the attack in retaliation for the USS Vincennes accidental shootdown earlier that year of an Iran Air flight 655 that killed 290 people, including 66 children.
“Rafsanjani personally guaranteed the Revolutionary Guards there would be revenge,” Kahlili told Newsmax.
But his U.S. handlers didn’t seem interested in his information, which included details on the type of radio transmitter used in the bomb and other details not publicly known.
“President Bush  was involved in backchannel negotiations with Rafsanjani, and they basically avoided mentioning Iran or pointing to Iran just to keep that alive,” he said. “When I told my handler this information, he said that I should consider Rafsanjani the new king of Iran.”
Because of this tilt toward Rafsanjani, Kahlili believes the Lockerbie investigations were “all derailed.”
In the book, he notes that the maneuvering “continues to this day. In August 2009, Scottish authorities freed Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted for downing the plane, just when his legal team was ready to present U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency documents implicating Iran.”
In the end, Kahlili says that he wonders whether the risks he took for the United States were worth it, since “all my years of spying had not changed Iran for the better” and the U.S government continues to believe in the “illusion” of negotiations with the Islamic Republic.
“Look at the history of the world and the involvement of America since its inception. Whenever we stood on our principles of democracy and freedom, we have changed the world for the better. Whenever we have sidestepped those principles, the very principles that made this nation the greatest nation on earth, we brought failure and horror… so Mr. Obama has a very short time to wake up and learn from his mistakes. “
Although Kahlili freely acknowledges that he has changed names, dates, and locations in the book to protect his family and the identity of other spies he helped recruit, he insists that “the story is the same” as what actually happened.
“Those involved in covert operations are shadows and, while acknowledged, still need to be shadows,” he said.
Kahlili’s lawyer, Mark Zaid, confirmed that he threatened to sue an unnamed U.S. government agency if it didn’t release the manuscript for publication by Dec. 21, 2009, the 21st anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, after it had been sitting on it for nearly three years.
The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies require former employees to submit manuscripts for pre-publication review, to ensure they do not contain classified material.
“I can say without any doubt that Mr. Kahlili’s relationship to the U.S. intelligence community is legitimate,” Zaid said. “His book was cleared.”
Kahlili said the three-year fight with CIA over publication was “nerve-wracking.” He maintains a blog on Iranian affairs
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