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Did He Spy for Nothing?

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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)."

The girls were led to a courtyard and executed to chants of "Allaho Akbar, Allaho Akbar." When he is able to speak to his friend Naser, he finds an emaciated shadow who puts his mouth to Kahlili's ear and whispers, "Reza, please get Parveneh and Soheil out of here. I can't watch them being tortured anymore. This is unimaginable hell in here. These bloodthirsty animals raped Parveneh in front of me. They made me watch as they twisted Soheil's ankle around in a circle. How can God allow this? I pray for my death every second."

There are other vicious regimes in the world. There are torture chambers elsewhere, too. But as Michael Ledeen has tirelessly emphasized in a series of books (e.g., "The Iranian Time Bomb"), Iran conceives of itself as a revolutionary world movement, not as the mere government of a single country. Its tendrils extend throughout the world, from Iraq to Lebanon to Latin America to Europe. The mullahs are truly the "terror masters" (another Ledeen title) and in addition to their criminality at home, they are uniquely hostile to the United States.

Kahlili's account includes the celebrations among the Revolutionary Guard when a suicide bomber killed 241 American Marines in Beirut in 1983, and when the Pan Am airliner was brought down over Lockerbie, Scotland. He saw the contempt with which the regime greeted each pathetic new attempt at engagement by American officials.

Kahlili and his family are now safe in the U.S. But as the fate of Sakineh Ashtiani highlights, the mullocracy, still nourished by crazed dogmas, continues its murderous rampage. The question that hangs in the air is this: Kahlili risked torment and death to get the truth to the United States, believing that if we but knew, we would put a stop to it. Why didn't we? There is ignorance, and then there is willful blindness. We cannot claim the former.

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