May 09, 2018 8:39 PM
Michael Lipin and Payam Yazdian
A son of an American man who went missing in Iran 11 years ago said the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal presents a new opportunity to bring his father home.
In an interview with VOA Persian’s NewsHour program in Washington on Wednesday, Doug Levinson said the U.S. and Iranian governments should take advantage of that opportunity to resolve the case of his father, Robert Levinson.
The elder Levinson disappeared March 9, 2007, while visiting Iran’s Kish Island as a private investigator. He had retired from a 22-year career with the FBI nine years earlier.
“I think that the way this would be resolved is through the highest levels of government,” Levinson said, singling out the role of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “The only way we are going to get this done is if [Khamenei] finds the mercy to send my father back to his family.”
Robert Levinson’s wife and seven children have been campaigning publicly for 11 years to try to locate him.
“He has been away from our family for such a long time — we have had several weddings and births of grandchildren, and he is missed so much,” Doug Levinson told VOA.
A statement posted on the family’s Facebook page said Levinson’s return should be a priority in any new U.S. negotiations with Iran. In his Tuesday speech announcing the U.S. exit from the 2015 nuclear deal, President Donald Trump offered to enter into talks with Iran on a “new and lasting” agreement that benefits the people of Iran and the wider region. Iran made no direct response to that offer.
In 2013, several U.S. news outlets reported that Levinson had been part of a rogue CIA intelligence mission, a claim that U.S. authorities have not confirmed. Iranian officials have long denied knowledge of his whereabouts.
In a letter to the editor of the New York Law Journal published on Wednesday, Robert Levinson’s daughter Sarah Moriarty adopted a more critical tone toward Iran.
“For the past 11 years, we have been unable to get any acceptable response from the Iranians as to what happened to my father. We have been told repeatedly that Iran is a country of laws, and the Iranian judiciary is scrupulous in its adherence to those laws. We know firsthand this is a lie,” she wrote.
In an interview with VOA sister network RFE/RL last year, Levinson’s wife, Christine, said FBI officials privately told the family that they believe Tehran is holding Levinson. The FBI has not publicly confirmed that assessment.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian service.