This week, the Trump administration sanctioned two Iranian leaders for their actions in the disappearance and death of Florida resident Bob Levinson.
Levinson worked for the FBI and DEA and went missing in 2007 during a private investigation case in Iran involving cigarette smuggling. Back in 2013, the Associated Press ran a story insisting Levinson worked for the CIA. Earlier this year, Levinson’s family announced he was presumed dead.
The U.S. Treasury Department hit Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) with sanctions on Monday.
“For 13 years, the Iranian government, which continues to take foreigners and dual-nationals hostage as political leverage, has denied knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts or condition. However, senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson’s abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the Iranian regime. The individuals designated today, Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, acted in their capacity as MOIS officers in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson,” the Treasury Department noted.
“The abduction of Mr. Levinson in Iran is an outrageous example of the Iranian regime’s willingness to commit unjust acts,” said U.S. Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin. “The United States will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Mr. Levinson’s detention and probable death.”
“The government of Iran pledged to provide assistance in bringing Bob Levinson home, but it has never followed through. The truth is that Iranian intelligence officers —with the approval of senior Iranian officials — were involved in Bob’s abduction and detention,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “While no one should be as cruelly treated as Bob was, this situation is personal because Bob served as a special agent for 22 years and will always be a part of the FBI family. We will never waver from our commitment to find out more about Bob’s long captivity, to give the Levinson family the answers they deserve, and to finally bring Bob home.”
“Mohammad Baseri is a high-ranking MOIS officer involved in counterespionage activities in and outside of Iran, who has been involved in sensitive investigations related to Iranian national security issues. Baseri has worked directly with intelligence officials from other countries in order to harm U.S. interests. Ahmad Khazai is a high-ranking member of the MOIS who, in his role as a senior official of the MOIS, has led MOIS delegations to other countries to assess the security situation.Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, acting in their capacity as MOIS officers, were involved in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson,” the Treasury Department noted.
The sanctions will block and report their property and interests in the U.S.
U.S. Sec. of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the sanctions.
“For 13 years, the Iranian regime has denied knowledge of Robert A. ‘Bob’ Levinson’s whereabouts or condition. However, senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson’s abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the regime,” Pompeo noted on Monday. “Today, the United States is designating two senior officials of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), who were involved in the abduction of Mr. Levinson on Iran’s Kish Island on or about March 9, 2007. Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, acting in their capacity as MOIS officers, were involved in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson. They are designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13553 for acting for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Iran’s MOIS. The MOIS was previously designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for being complicit in the commission of serious human rights abuses against Iranians protesting fraudulent elections held on June 12, 2009.
“The Iranian regime has a 41-year history of abducting and detaining foreigners and dual-nationals as political leverage. We reiterate our strong warning to U.S. citizens and dual-nationals that traveling to Iran may jeopardize their personal safety. The abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson is another egregious example of the regime’s callous disregard toward human life,” Pompeo continued. “The United States will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Mr. Levinson’s disappearance. We call on the Iranian regime to provide a full accounting of Mr. Levinson’s fate, and we will not rest until all Americans wrongfully detained by Iran are back home. We hope today brings the Levinson family some of the answers and justice they deserve.”
Last year, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., brought out the “Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act” which “cements in place programs to address hostage-taking, and gives the United States government new tools to rescue hostages and punish their captors.” The bill sanctioned individuals who take Americans hostage, elevates the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to the rank of Ambassador and creates an inter-agency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell and a Hostage Response Group. The bill cleared the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which Deutch sits, back in March.
Deutch, the chairman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, has been working closely with the Levinson family and he weighed in on the sanctions on Tuesday.
“I welcome the sanctions announced on two Iranian officials in connection with Bob Levinson’s disappearance and probable death. It has been heartbreaking to watch the Levinson family have no accountability for what happened to Bob. This is a step toward that, but nothing will undue the nearly 14 years of agony they endured not knowing what happened to their husband and father. I will not cease fighting for the Levinson family until Bob’s remains are returned to his loved ones,” Deutch insisted.
“We must pass the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability Act before this Congress is over so that the Levinsons and other hostage families will know the full weight of the U.S. government is behind them and that those who engage in hostage taking will always be held accountable,” he added.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.