In March 2007, former Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) agent Robert Levinson was abducted. In March 2020, 15 years later, the U.S. government, along with Levinson’s grief-stricken family, officially declared that the agent had most likely died in captivity. There was no reason to assume otherwise.
In October 2020, a U.S. judge, just to have an official record of it, ordered the Iranian government to award $1.45 billion to Levinson’s family. And in 2012 the United States government had issued a $20 million reward for any information concerning the disappearance and possible whereabouts of the missing man.
But new sanctions have recently come in to play, and they name names. And those names belong to some shady Iranian characters. In the words of a senior U.S. official, this “puts the abduction squarely on the shoulders of the Iranian regime” and it’s “long overdue.”
The two culprits named in the abduction, detention, and death of Levinson are Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, both high ranking officials with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Because of the cases classified nature, U.S. officials have refused to elaborate further.
What is known is that Levinson mysteriously disappeared while visiting Iran’s Kish Island in March of 2007. Other than this, if he did indeed die in March of 2020 as we are led to believe, he holds the record for being the longest-held American in Iranian detention.
But at least one high-ranking U.S. official said that despite the announcement, he believes Levison is still alive. Maybe not so well. But alive. The officials’ name? President Donald J. Trump. “I don’t accept it,” Trump said. “I don’t accept that he’s dead.”
The president said that while the U.S. was fully aware that Levinson had been sick for a very long time, his administration has never received confirmation from the Iranian government about his being dead.
In a Facebook post, Levinson’s family wrote, “We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody. We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In recent years Iran has traded tit-for-tat in the form of prisoner exchanges, but despite numerous requests for Levinson to be one of them, they were never honored.
This leaves a lot of unanswered questions. If President is unaware of whether Levinson is dead or breathing, where did the U.S. officials gather their information from, or more precisely, from whom?
And just how in the world after all of these years did the two names Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai come floating to the surface?
Here is another unsolved piece of the puzzle. Levinson was not on official duty when he was abducted, and he posed absolutely no threat to Iran whatsoever. He retired from the CIA in 1998 and ran his own private-eye intelligence company.
The CIA confirmed this and determined that Levinson had been privately working on cracking an underground cigarette smuggling ring. Initially, the Iranian government lied about having him in custody but later confessed they had locked him up because of his known CIA links.
It’s believed the Iranian regime used Levinson as a bargaining chip now and then when negotiating with the U.S.over the years but nothing ever led to his release. This once again begs the question of whether he was actually even alive.
“If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today,” the family wrote in a Facebook post.
The post continued with, “How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us. They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands.”
Of course, nobody has been returned to the family and there are doubts that it ever will be. Either Trump is correct in thinking Levinson is still alive, or his body was buried deep beneath Iranian soil years ago. We may never know.