Daniel Levinson, son of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, is hopeful that President Trump can bring his father home after 10 years missing in Iran.
Fox News interviewed Daniel on the tenth anniversary of his father’s disappearance, shortly after the Trump White House declared it would “spare no effort” to recover Robert Levinson or learn the full story of his fate.
“The Levinson family has suffered far too much during the last decade due to the absence of Mr. Levinson, a loving father, brother, husband, grandfather and friend to many,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Thursday. “Each and every day, but especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family. We will not rest until this case is resolved.”
Levinson said he hoped President Trump would meet with the family, so they could convey the message that “if there’s one issue that he’s so well-suited for, it’s this one to get my dad home, because he has talked about helping to take care of the people who have been serving our country, he’s talked about being tough with America’s adversaries.”
He noted Trump has also specifically addressed the Robert Levinson case and accused Iran of knowing “exactly where he is.” In the fall of 2015, Trump promised to recover Levinson and three other Americans held in Iran; in fact, he predicted they would be returned even before he took office if he won the presidency. The other three – Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former Marine Amir Hekmati, and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini – were released over the course of 2016, but Levinson is still missing.
Daniel Levinson said Trump is a “deal-maker,” and “this is going to require a deal.”
“I think this is an enormous opportunity for President Trump to do something that two previous U.S. presidents haven’t done,” he told Fox News.
Levinson reiterated his family’s criticism of President Obama for ignoring his father’s plight to secure the Iran nuclear deal. “He had said many times over the years that it was a top priority, but he had eight years to get him out, and he didn’t,” he said of Obama.
“I think the biggest issue with that, though, was that he was never aggressive with the Iranians. He never issued threats of repercussions for their inaction. We know that President Trump has no qualms about doing that – threatening sanctions, threatening to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. So we’re hoping that he’s going to be tough,” Levinson said.
The Levinson family issued a statement on Thursday that pronounced Robert “America’s longest-held hostage in history,” and asked why there hasn’t been more outrage over “this treatment of an American citizen.” The statement reads in full:
When is enough enough? It has been 10 years since Robert Levinson, our amazing husband, father and grandfather, was arrested on Kish Island, Iran, and imprisoned. For 10 years the government of Iran has been allowed to dodge and weave every time it was asked to come clean about what happened to Bob and send him home. Where is the outrage of this treatment of an American citizen?
For 10 years, over and over and over again, two U.S. Presidents abandoned him, a lifelong public servant. Even Bob’s government co-workers and their bosses – they know who they are – ran away when he disappeared, to their lasting shame.
Ten years is beyond enough. How much more agony must he withstand? It is time to get Bob Levinson home to his family. And, to Bob, Dad and Grandpa Bob: Stay strong! We know you are alive and trying to come home to us. We love you more than ever. We miss you every hour of the day. We will never, never, ever give up looking for you.
“The Iranian government arrested my dad. They’ve held him for 10 years without any basic human rights. This is an American citizen. There should be outrage around the world,” Daniel Levinson said in his Fox News interview. “And they’ve been getting away with it. This is unbelievable that it has been this long, and I’m still coming out here and having to plead to get action.”
He said it was an “enormous opportunity that was squandered” when the Obama administration did not insist on Levinson’s release while negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran.
Daniel stood behind his family’s criticism of Robert Levinson’s colleagues and senior U.S. officials. “In the ensuing weeks after he first went missing, there were mistakes made. We’re trying to move past that. It’s an issue to be addressed in the future. We’re focused on getting him home. We can deal with the repercussions of that later,” he said.
“He was working for the CIA as a contractor,” Daniel elaborated. “There are the people who were tasked with working with him. They had denied it at first, and lied to the federal investigators at the FBI about his ties. So that was a big issue for us. There’s so many complex aspects to this. The focus for is is that the Iranians really have denied everything since.”
He noted that his father has “missed several weddings” and has “two grandchildren on the way” plus “several that he has never met.”
“That’s tough when our family is all together, because we have a big family, and it’s a happy time,” he said.
“We fully believe he’s alive,” Daniel said of his father. “The FBI investigators who are involved in the case on a daily basis believe he’s alive. People survive ten-year prison sentences all the time. He’s relatively young, he’s going to be 69 tomorrow. He has a lot to come home to. They think that the two most pressing health issues he has – diabetes, hypertension – those can be resolved with a limited staple diet that he’s eating over there.”
The New York Times recalls Iranian officials feeding the Obama administration a false intelligence report that Robert Levinson’s remains had been buried in a remote region of Pakistan, but no remains were discovered at the indicated location.
“American officials concluded that the report, rather than a gesture of good will, was a gambit by Iran to further cloud its role in Mr. Levinson’s fate,” the Times writes, noting that the only hard evidence remains a handful of photographs and a professionally-staged 2010 videotape that depicted him as a prisoner. The FBI believes this video was probably filmed by “a state-sponsored intelligence group such as a unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps.”