Where is Robert Levinson?
Five U.S. families celebrated the reported release of their loved ones from Iran as “implementation day” got underway on Sunday.
Sanctions were rolled back as the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed Iran had complied with the terms of the nuclear pact it made with world leaders. Interpol deleted 11 Iranians from its “wanted” list.
But one American Jewish family in Coral Springs, Florida was crushed.
“We are happy for the other families,” said the family of Robert Levinson in a statement on Facebook. “But once again, Bob Levinson has been left behind. We are devastated.”
Seven Iranian prisoners were traded in exchange for the five Americans who were freed on Sunday, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and a Christian pastor.
But Iranian government officials who originally discussed his release with American negotiators now deny knowing the 67-year-old Levinson’s whereabouts.
In March 2007, Bob Levinson disappeared off Kish Island in Iran. An American Jew in his sixties with diabetes at the time, his family and friends were deeply concerned about his fate.
The U.S. government said at the time the retired FBI agent had been working as a private investigator, and the family confirmed the tale.
But according to a report by the U.S. television network ABC News, Levinson was actually working at the time for the CIA. The family held their peace about the operation for a long time – until they realized that their silence and loyalty was not being reciprocated at the top echelon with equal efforts to free Levinson.
Family attorney David McGee expressed the family’s disillusionment with the government, and his own feeling that the CIA and FBI had betrayed Levinson. “Rather than acknowledge what they had done and try to save Bob’s life, they denied him,” McGee told ABC News.
A U.S. official told a news briefing, “Iran has also committed to continue cooperating with the United States to determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson.”
But for Iranian officials to act as if they don’t know the whereabouts of an American citizen who has been in the country for more than eight years is beyond disingenuous: it’s ridiculous. U.S. officials supporting the behavior insult the intelligence of anyone to whom they repeat such nonsense.
FBI Agents Association President Renaldo Tariche stated that Levinson’s former colleagues have not forgotten him. “Bob, married for 38 years with seven children, has missed more than nine years of accomplishments and milestones in the lives of his children,” he said in a statement. “Each day brings renewed heartache to his family and friends.
“We celebrate today’s release of Americans but the world should not forget Levinson’s continued unjustified imprisonment and continue to work for his release.”
There is a fear among some U.S. officials and analysts that Levinson was left out of the prisoner release because he may not be alive.
Iranian claims of not knowing where he is ring hollow to anyone familiar with Iranian intelligence operations.
The question remains whether he was captured by Iranians, Iranian proxies, or others the Iranians simply refuse to discuss. The other question is whether American authorities have been informed of those details and choose not to disclose that information – and if so, why?
Hana Levi Julian