The CIA spy inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard who found Jesus
By Mark Ellis
Reza Khalili in disguise
As a member of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard he witnessed horrific acts that caused him to question his faith in Islam and the regime he served. After he became a CIA spy and later escaped to the West, he found a new revolutionary to follow who offered a love that overwhelmed his soul.
“In childhood, I always prayed in my heart to God,” says Reza Khalili, a pseudonym taken by the ex-spy for safety reasons. “I always tried to find a way to get close to him.”
Educated in the United States at USC, he returned to Iran immediately before the revolution in 1979. His experience in the U.S. gave him a respect for American democratic traditions. “The founding fathers were so courageous,” he notes, “providing humanity with democracy and freedom, sacrificing their lives.”
He had high ideals when he returned toIran. “I wanted to help my country progress, hopeful that there would be full democracy. I believed that Ayatollah Khomeini would be true to his promise of freedom for all.”
A childhood friend persuaded him to join the Revolutionary Guard because of his expertise with computers, but he was unprepared for what he soon observed under the banner of Islam.
“The mullahs forced Iranians to adhere to a strict Islamic dress code and subjected them to amputation as the punishment for stealing, lashing for drinking, stoning for adultery,” he notes. Young people who sought new freedoms they thought had been promised by the revolution were arrested and taken to Evin prison.
“Many were raped, tortured and executed, among them my best friend and his siblings. Teenage girls as young as 13 were raped prior to execution because in Islam a virgin can go to heaven, and the ‘men of God’ wanted to deny them that reward. Others were slowly lowered in tanks of acid so they would die painfully.”
“Khomeini and the clerics announced themselves as representatives of Allah on earth and declared anyone opposing them to be an enemy of God. The punishment was execution. Tens of thousands were executed.”
These excesses of the Islamic revolution turned his stomach. Who can do that? he wondered. They claim to believe in Allah and that Islam is the last religion and a superior religion – that everybody needs to convert.
“This broke my heart,” he says. “I was searching for God, so I prayed to him and I said, ‘This can’t be from you. This is not you.’” Khalili couldn’t imagine a God of love could foster these horrible crimes.
When he couldn’t take any more, he convinced his superiors to let him fly to the U.S.to visit an ailing relative. He met with the FBI during his visit, who turned him over to the CIA inLondon. After he passed several polygraph tests and received training, he returned to Iran as an undercover agent. “I chose to confront the regime in my own way,” he notes.
Meanwhile, he continued to study Islamic teachings in his search for truth. “As I learned more about the Quran and what Muhammad prescribed, I concluded that Islam as now practiced in Iran is no true religion, that the Allah of the criminal ayatollahs is not the real God.”
“Their religion turned against every principle of humanity,” he decided. “They instituted a cruel set of laws that represent intolerance, savagery and injustice, representative of an evil mind, not a loving God.”
Khalili renounced Islam and began the quest to find the real God, the one who had blessed him so often in his very dangerous work as a CIA spy.
He escaped Iran in the mid-1990s, and now lives a furtive existence in the U.S. as an assassination target of Iran’s government. “The radical mullahs who rule Iran want me dead, first for betraying my country as a member of the Revolutionary Guard who spied for the CIA, and now for renouncing the religion that allows them to cling to their tyranny,” he says.
“Once I was back in the U.S., I had lost total faith in Islam,” he notes. “I was in a search to find my God.”
A friend gave him a copy of the New Testament and the JESUS Film, which touched his heart. Khalili studied the Scripture and asked many questions of his friend.
He found a sharp contrast between Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6 to love your enemies and the Quran (5:33), which urges punishment for those who oppose Islam — that “they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned.”
“I was never familiar with the life of Jesus, his words, his wisdom, and his pure love,” Khalili says. “His words were very revolutionary to me.”
He reached a point of surrender to the one true living God, whose love was suddenly irresistible. “The totality of His love overwhelmed my soul,” he says. “I couldn’t resist it, it touched me so deeply. It was then that I knew beyond doubt that the Bible was the true Word of God. That Jesus was the One I had always been looking for. I knew I was home.”
“After a long journey, I have finally found my God. Jesus came to me when I needed guidance. He came to me at a time when my faith in man and religion was totally shaken. His words and His love became the guiding light to set me free from sin and hopelessness,” he says.
Khalili perseveres in pray for the deliverance of his people. “And as I continue my fight against the evil in Iran, I know in my heart that the Lord will guide me in that fight because He loves the people of Iran even more than I do,” he says.
“The Iranian people are desperate for their freedom, and Jesus says, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Kahlili teaches at the
U.S. Department of Defense’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy (JCITA), is a senior fellow with EMPact America and a
member of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He is the author of “A Time to Betray,” a book about his double life as a CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. “A Time to Betray
” was the winner of the 2010 National Best Book Award, and the 2011 International Best Book Award. The book is set to become a movie.