President Trump has recently reiterated his campaign promise to free American Robert Levinson, who is believed to have been held in Iran since 2007.
Levinson is a former FBI agent who, following his retirement, became a private investigator and later performed investigations on behalf of the CIA as a contractor.
In 2007 he went to the island of Kish to meet with a potential informant. The island is in the Persian Gulf and controlled by Iran. While on the island he was apparently apprehended and taken back to Tehran for questioning and imprisonment.
His wife and friends have been searching for him since his capture. Initially, the CIA denied knowing him, but eventually – due to a congressional investigation – his ties with the agency became known. The FBI then became involved to assist with his search.
In 2010 a videotape of his captivity was released, followed by photographs in 2011. Other than these hints, however, there has been no additional evidence of his whereabouts or even if he is still alive. Iran has denied knowing anything about him.
Now, Trump’s National Security Council has contacted Levinson’s family to let them know that U.S. authorities are continuing to look for him and that “the U.S. government will never cease its efforts to bring back our citizens who are unlawfully detained or missing overseas.”
This is part of a broader effort to finally get tough on Iran and undo the damage done by the Obama administration to U.S. and allied security in the Middle East. Israel and the Arab states fear a rising Iran, especially a nuclear-armed one, and Obama did little to alleviate these fears. Trump’s administration is now seeking to rectify the situation, beginning with the return of Robert Levinson.