Treason is not always bad. In fact, treason – the act of betraying your country to the enemy – can sometimes be a justified and even patriotic act. That’s what this book shows although besides the title, the author – Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) – never directly mentions this notion.
This book is a must read for everybody who wants to be involved with intelligence – both directly by being a secret agent and/or indirectly by following intelligence trends. The book is also a must read for the ones who would like to specialize in Iranian politics.
Reza Kahlili describes what the challenge of constantly hiding his double life (being Wally for the CIA and Reza for the Revolutionary Guards) includes. He was lying to colleagues but also to beloved ones all the time about what he is doing.
Especially lying to his beloved ones some of whom like his mother were appaled of the fact that he was supporter of the Islamic tyranny through working for the Revolutionary Guards was a very heartbreaking experience for he never had to tell them of his double life for the sake of protecting himself and his family not knowing who might somehow “spread the word” about the truth about him. He was constantly hiding and being suspicious of everything and everybody around him as that’s what Iran has turned into and still is – a police state where the walls have ears and one doesn’t know whom to trust.
Despite his being alert, some members of the Guards became suspicious of him and apparently tried to extract any further hint of him that would eventually prove beyond their Islamic doubt – which didn’t require much – that he is not clean. Fortunately for Reza though, he had his friend Kazem (a Muslim so devout to the Islamic cause of the regime that he was blind to every atrocity it was causing to the world and the Iranian people) whose high rank in the Guards’ hierarchy and whose blindly trusting Reza actually saved the latter’s life many times through reassuring his colleagues that Reza is a devout Muslim and dedicated to the revolution (Kazem – not a very shrewd person, it turned out – actually trully believed in what he was telling them). In fact, before Kazem died – from Mujahideens’ shots – he actually saved Reza’s life from the attack even after Reza had told him minutes ago how disgusted of the regime he was and that this was not the Islam they believed in when they were kids.
What to learn from the book
“A Time to Betray” gives the big picture of what working for the intelligence of any country – not just the U.S. and Iran – is about. Here is a summary of some of the features:
Never tell anybody about what you are doing. In fact, none of the people the agents know – besides their colleagues – knows what they are doing, not even their closest friends and relatives.
Never cause any suspicion about what you are doing. If you think you are being followed, make sure you lose your follower’s track.
The intelligence agency that you are working for will treat you diplomatically. As an incentive to dig into a matter, they will not only pay you salary but will also compliment you on your work. Regardless of how useless information you are bringing to the organization, they will always say it is “very important” to them, and will therefore have it in mind. Some of the information Reza was giving to the CIA was not important to them but they never let him know about it. It’s the same with the Revolutionary Guards or any other intelligence agency. They will praise you so that you keep up the good work. The appraisal might even stimulate you to improve your skills as their agent which is always welcome to the intelligence agency.
The intelligence agency that you are working for will try to keep you involved with them. If you don’t show a strong will to put an end to your working with the CIA in particular, they will make sure you stay with them indefinitely through incentives such as high salary, taking care of your costs, taking care of your family without the latter’s knowing that of course while not caring about what you really want. All in all, they promise to treat you like royalty hoping that you don’t realize that there is a slight detail – that while you are being spoiled materialistically, you are deprived of your life exposing it to dangers and being away from your family, relatives and friends for a comparatively long period of time. Meanwhile, their attitude is so kind that if you can’t say “no” easily, they will manage to keep you with them. However, if the intelligence agency that you are working for is not the one of a democracy like the case with the Revolutionary Guards, any sign of unwillingness to deliver might be fatal for your life.
The intelligence agency that you are working for is not going to do what they promised to do for you (except for protecting your family and taking care of your costs), unless you have finished the work that you had been given, so that you are focused on it. The CIA didn’t let Reza know that his family was provided with visas for the U.S. until he managed to arrange Rasool – a Revolutionary Guards member who was working in London but who, like Reza, apparently did not approve of the Islamic regime’s atrocities – to meet with them at which point they will try to recruit him and continue Reza’s work: the one that Reza was determined to put an end to.
The intelligence agency that you are working for don’t care about your cause, and for good reason. Their goal is not to satisfy someone’s cause but to satisfy what their government’s goals are. The assumption that Reza had – that the U.S. share his passion about a free Iran and will help him accomplish it – was the biggest mistake of his life considering the time he has lost without being around his wife and then his son, but may also be interpreted as the greatest payoff of his life considering the opportunity to go to the United States and establish himself and his family there, instead of staying in Iran and witnessing more atrocities.
For every Muslim civilian casualty, whether or not on purpose, there will be retaliation. The Lockerbie tragedy, according to Mr. Kahlili’s recounts, was as a result of the U.S. Navy’s destroying an Iran Air jetliner over Arabian Sea.
The book serves as a red light to the western world which is responsible for what is going on in Iran anyway by first toppling the then Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq who wanted to nationalized the oil industry thus taking it away from the British and establishing a dictatorial regime – that of the Shah – whose wide-spread corruption at all levels actually led to the Islamic Revolution with Iranian citizens of all backgrounds taking part in it not knowing what it was going to do to them. That red light shows a country whose culture is declining, whose people might be radicalizing, and whose liberties are being taken away one by one (here is a particular example – and a recent one). In other words, the west created its own enemy itself without having realized that on the first place. Hopefull it corrects its mistake as soon as possible – both for its own good and for the good of the Iranian people.