US Has Confirmed that Ex-FBI Agent Left Iran Years Ago, Spokesman Says
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iran reiterated that US citizen Robert Levinson had left Iran for an unknown destination many years ago, and that has been admitted by then US Secretary of State, urging Washington to avoid politicizing the issue.
In a statement on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi expressed sympathy with the family of Levinson, emphasizing, “According to credible evidence, the person (Levinson) had left the Iranian soil for an unknown destination years ago, and the then-US Secretary of State has also acknowledged this fact.”
“In recent years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has done its utmost to obtain evidence for the exact fate of Mr. Levinson after leaving Iran, but has not found any clue suggesting that he might be alive,” Mousavi added.
“If the US has become confident about his (Levinson’s) death, it can make this public without politicizing the issue and trying to abuse the feelings of Levinson’s family,” he said.
The US has, for long, been alleging that Levinson disappeared on the southern Iranian Kish Island in 2007. Tehran has categorically denied any involvement in his disappearance.
On Wednesday, Levinson’s family cited the US government as claiming he had died in Iranian custody.
On January 19, 2016, after years of pointing the finger to Iran for his fate, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced for the first time that “we have reason to believe that he no longer is in Iran.” Back then, Earnest said he rested assured that Iran would search for Levinson.
Until last December, the administration of US President Donald Trump would claim that Levinson was in Iranian custody and ask Tehran to hand him over.
Despite recent claims by his administration that Levinson has died in such a condition, there is ample evidence pointing to the fact that US officials already knew that he had died while on an unauthorized mission for the CIA some place outside Iran.
The fact that he was on a rogue mission had been already admitted in an article by The Washington Post, which wrote on December 12, 2013 that “an American man, who disappeared in Iran more than six years ago had been working for the CIA in what US intelligence officials described as a rogue operation that led to a major shake-up in the spy agency.”
The Post, back then, described the nature of the mission by citing emails and other documents that had shown “he had gone to Iran at the direction of certain CIA analysts who had no authority to run operations overseas.”
The New York Times also carried a piece on Wednesday, in which it said that the preceding administration of Barack Obama had at one point been tipped off about intelligence showing that “the remains of an American had been buried in [Pakistan’s] Balochistan.”
“American officials assumed that the remains were Mr. Levinson’s,” the paper wrote.
The revelations showing the nature of the CIA mission enlisting Levinson, The Post noted, prompted “a major internal investigation” within the US spy agency.
The probe eventually had its leadership “discipline 10 employees, including three veteran analysts, who were forced out of their jobs.”
The Post also said that the CIA reached an extrajudicial settlement with Levinson’s family after the emergence of his dealings with the agency. The agreement saw the agency paying the family “a $2.5 million annuity and an additional $120,000, the cost of renewing Mr. Levinson’s contract.”
“Both sides wanted to avoid a lawsuit that would publicly reveal details of the arrangement,” The Post said.