WASHINGTON – An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps defector who once spied for
the CIA sharply criticized US efforts to end Teheran’s pursuit of nuclear
weapons Friday as ineffective, dismissing sanctions as a “fantasy” and
engagement with Teheran as a betrayal by the West.
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“Reza Kahlili,” a
pseudonym used to protect his family and contacts, warned that a nuclear weapon
in the hands of the current “messianic” regime would be used to bomb “Israel,
European capitals and the Persian Gulf region at the same time.”
called for the West to impose a total diplomatic embargo on Iran to have any
hope of preventing such a scenario by means other than war.
a fantasy, it’s an illusion,” Kahlili declared in a rare public appearance at
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Stop dreaming,
There’s not going to be a change of behavior.
dealing with rational people.”
He suggested that European and other
nations cut all diplomatic ties, shipping lines and airspace access and
otherwise quarantine the country. He predicted this would cause anxiety among
Iranian leaders and persuade many to “jump ship,” and after that “this
government will be overthrown very fast.”
Kahlili blamed the West for
missing an opportunity for regime change during last year’s flawed presidential
elections, in which hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets but
were ultimately suppressed by the use of brutal force, much of it at the hands
of an emboldened Revolutionary Guards.
“The West failed in carrying out
their duties of supporting strongly and vocally the aspirations of the Iranian
people. They failed in that and let them down,” he charged.
you do negotiate, every time you send a letter, you provide an extended hand,
you call Iran the Islamic Republic of Iran, you send flowers, you send
chocolate, you send tapes, you invite them to parties – this is how you betray
your principles,” he continued. “This is how you give them legitimacy. You have
to call it out. Call out evil. Call it out and say, ‘This is wrong, we’re not
going to stand for it.
We will support freedom.’” Kahlili said that there
was enough antipathy toward the regime from the general Iranian public, however,
that even an attack by Israel would be welcomed so long as it was aimed at the
regime itself and its overthrow.
“It doesn’t matter who did the
Everyone will be clapping, saying, ‘At least somebody’s got the
guts,’” he claimed.
He described most Iranians as not having “any
resentment” against Israel, and caring very little about the Palestinians – in
contrast to the Revolutionary Guards for which hatred of Israel was a driving
He spoke of the general population’s frustration when “they see
the revenues that should have been directed to their well-being given to
He also noted that many Iranians get their information from
Israel Radio’s Persian service. “They trust the radio of Israel more than the
BBC and definitely more than the Voice of America.”
Israel and Iran had a
close alliance as two major non-Arab powers in the Middle East prior to the
Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Kahlili was a student in America in the 1970s
and came back to Iran hopeful that the revolution would mean democracy and
freedom for his people.
He joined the Revolutionary Guards after his best
friend recruited him, but quickly became disillusioned after witnessing rapes,
murders and torture at the hands of the Guards, a key component of Iran’s state
military force and its extensive furtive business and technology
At that point, he contacted the CIA to help them gain
information on the regime. He said he didn’t ever receive “any magical watch or
a pen or a car that James Bond has” but was trained in using codes to
communicate with his American handlers.
“I was most shocked by the lack
of understanding about what was going on in Iran and their willingness to
negotiate with the people who were dangerous not only to the Iranian people but
also to the world,” said Kahlili, who recalled successive efforts at covert
engagement with Iran from his time as a spy in the 1980s.
Though he no
longer works for the CIA, having left the Guards and moved to the US
Kahlili still travels with bodyguards and appears only in disguise.
Friday, he wore a facemask, sunglasses and a baseball cape to hid his
and spoke through a voice distorter.
He said he did not want to put his
family and contacts still in Iran at risk, through which he still
to the US government when he comes across them.
At the same time, he
expressed deep disillusionment with the US since after his years of
regime in Iran still stood.
“It didn’t accomplish what I had hoped,” he