Mona Charen

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the 43-year-old Iranian mother of two whose death by stoning was commuted to death by hanging (so generous) after an international outcry, appeared on Iranian television this week. Speaking unsteadily in her native Azeri, Ashtiani admitted to being an accomplice to her husband's murder and of committing adultery with her husband's cousin.

It's bad enough that the mullahs torture and kill so many of their people. Must they also insult their intelligence? Ashtiani has previously denied both charges, though she has been tortured to force a confession. Her second lawyer Houtan Kian, (the first fled Iran last month in fear for his life) told the Guardian that "She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of the camera."

No one would ever guess that she was speaking under duress. Listeners would naturally accept that this victim of the medieval thug regime would, in the words of the Guardian account, "blame the western media for interfering in her personal life."

Mina Ahadi of the Iran Committee against Stoning (ICAS) said: "It's not the first time Iran has put an innocent victim on a televised programme and killed them on the basis of their forced confessions -- it has happened numerously in the first decade of the Islamic Revolution."

For a window into that first decade and beyond, "Reza Kahlili" is a thrilling guide. He is still in hiding. He will never be able to move freely, use his real name, or return to his native Iran -- at least not until the criminals who rule the country have been overthrown. That's because for the better part of two decades, he spied for the CIA. His newly published memoir, "A Time to Betray," not only reads like a taut mystery, but also falls like a hammer blow, reminding even those who detest the regime of just how evil and dangerous they are.

Kahlili's perspective is unique: Recruited into the Revolutionary Guard by a childhood friend soon after the revolution, he saw everything, and he saw it with the heightened sensitivity of someone constantly on guard against his betrayal being discovered.

Very soon after his guard career began, a close friend and his younger siblings were arrested and sent to Evin prison. Kahlili described the scene:

"A group of armed guards emerged from a doorway. With them, a dozen teenage girls struggled barefoot down the hall. I went numb as they passed in front of me. These children seemed broken both mentally and physically. I could see that some were in shock. Some had tears rolling down their swollen faces ... I didn't think it was possible for me to feel more miserable ... until I realized that one of the faces was Parveneh's (his childhood friend's sister)."

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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