"Reza Kahlili," self-proclaimed ex-CIA spy, makes new Iran claims
Reza Kahlili, a self-proclaimed former CIA “double agent” inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, appeared in disguise at a Washington think tank Friday claiming that Iran has developed weapons-grade uranium and missiles ready to carry nuclear warheads.
The pseudonymous Kahlili, whose previous accounts have been greeted with widespread skepticism, also said Iran was planning nuclear suicide bombings with “a thousand suitcase bombs spread around Europe and the U.S.”
“This is a messianic regime. There should be no doubt they’re going to commit the most horrendous suicide bombing in human history,” Kahlili said. “They will attack Israel, European capitals and the Persian Gulf region at the same time, then they will hide in a bunker [until a religious prophecy is fulfilled]… and kill the rest of the nonbelievers.”
He appeared wearing dark glasses, a surgical mask and a San Francisco Giants baseball cap, and spoke through a voice altering apparatus. Bodyguards stood nearby.
“Yes my appearance was as such for security purposes,” Kahlili told SpyTalk over the weekend, “to protect my family both here and back in Iran and more so to protect the one individual whom I recruited, who may be still working inside.”
The Washington Institute posted an audio recording of his appearance.
“From my sources,” Kahlili told his audience Friday, “I have heard Iran has successfully enriched uranium over the 90-percent threshold, and that was even before they announced the 20-percent experiment. And that they have missiles that they have not publicly shown, because that would verify their intention of carrying out [sic] nuclear warheads.”
Kahlili said he passed along that and other information to the CIA, which he suggested was suppressing his report on uranium enrichment.
“The last information I passed on from my sources within the Guards in Iran was several months ago about another possible nuclear site. I passed that information to the CIA for verification,” he said.
But he also criticized the CIA for allegedly rejecting his proposal that it “should help Iranians free themselves of this evil regime.”
“I wish my CIA handler were here today so I could ask him, ‘How is that working out for you?’” he said.
Several current and former U.S. intelligence officials in the audience “rolled their eyes” at Kahlili’s claims, said one observer who was present.
Some in attendance compared Kahlili with Ahmed Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who helped convince the George W. Bush administration that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the claims were proved false.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, who was not present, challenged the some of Kahlili's implications.
“As our government as a whole has made clear, Iran’s nuclear program is a high-priority security issue. It would be wrong for anyone to suggest that the United States doesn’t recognize that.”
A U.S. counter-proliferation official, who would discuss the highly sensitive issue only on condition of anonymity, dismissed Kahlili’s uranium claims.
“We’ve had real successes in acquiring some of the Iranian government’s most tightly held secrets, including discovery of its concealed enrichment facility near Qom,” the official said. “But things like 90-percent enrichment just don’t tally out.”
Kahlili was also questioned skeptically about his claim that he was welcomed into the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence section despite his involvement in "the freedom movement."
Kahlili said that came later. He grew up in a prosperous Tehran family. In the early 1970s, his father sent him to the University of Southern California and bought him a red Ford Mustang.
When he returned home after the overthrow of the shah in 1979, he was initially enthusiastic about the revolution, he said. But he soon became disenchanted. Instead of endangering his family by quitting, he reached out to the CIA and worked as a "double agent" inside the organization.
“Three former CIA officers who ran Iranian operations in the '80s and should have been knowledgeable said they had never heard of such a significant penetration of the Guard during this period,” The Washington Post’s veteran spy-watcher, David Ignatius, said in a review of Kahlili’s memoir, A TIME TO BETRAY: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.
“A current U.S. government official, however, did vouch for Kahlili's role as a spy,” Ignatius added.
"I can't confirm every jot and title in the book," the official told Ignatius, "but he did have a relationship with U.S. intelligence."
“I can say without any doubt that Mr. Kahlili’s relationship to the U.S. intelligence community is legitimate,” his lawyer Mark Zaid said. “His book was cleared.”
| July 12, 2010; 5:05 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Military | Tags: AIPAC, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
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