On July 9, 2010, Reza Kahlili addressed a special Policy Forum luncheon at The Washington Institute. Mr. Kahlili is the author of A TIME TO BETRAY: THE ASTONISHING DOUBLE LIFE OF A CIA AGENT INSIDE THE REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS OF
David B. Crist
One anecdote aptly illustrates Kahlili's key role. Former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger's personal papers include an account of a National Security Council debate concerning
After attending college and graduate school in the
To his surprise, once Kahlili was established in the Guard, he found that the revolution had been taken over by extreme elements. As a result of his position, he become aware of the regime's horrific, systemic human rights violations, such as the rape and execution of teenagers. The Islamic Republic soon evolved into a fascist state, with a radical minority ruling a moderate majority.
Seeing this new direction firsthand and lacking a political option to work for change, Kahlili decided to help his country by spying for the CIA. He returned to the
When Kahlili returned to
During his CIA recruitment and training, Kahlili became acutely aware that U.S authorities tended to lack understanding of
According to Kahlili, the IRGC was -- and, he assumes, still is -- composed of three types of people: average individuals, many with little education and moderate religious beliefs; self-serving opportunists; and hardcore radicals who subscribe to a extreme messianic Islamist ideology. Despite these diverse motivations and beliefs, however, most IRGC members shared certain attitudes, including a deep belief in fundamentalist Islam and a conviction that
In assessing the religious views of IRGC members, Kahlili noted that the majority of the guards he had contact with believed that Islam would eventually rule the world. Only a minority were motivated by or felt a deep loyalty to IRGC leaders. And despite their enmity toward
As for the benefits of IRGC service, Kahlili noted that in his day, members received low salaries and lived modestly, though he believes that has changed as the Guard has moved into economic activities. During his tenure, he saw the IRGC make use of all institutions under the regime's control -- for instance, Guardsmen were posted abroad as officials of the Foreign Ministry, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and many other government- or government-affiliated institutions.
Although Kahlili is skeptical about whether his years as a spy helped advance his goal of a free
This rapporteur's summary was prepared by Hale Arifagaoglu.
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