Robert Levinson Missing: Iran to Help U.S. Find Missing FBI Agent

According to Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran is once again willing to help the United States find retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, who went missing six years ago while on a trip to the Islamic Republic’s Kish Island. As the two countries set aside their differences, even in the midst of alarmingly high tensions, it is a wonder why it is so seemingly impossible for the U.S. and Iran to cooperate on other matters as well — namely, Iran’s potentially dangerous nuclear ambitions and the U.S.’ crippling sanctions.

According to the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, finding Levinson, who disappeared while investigating cigarette counterfeiting in the region, “remains a high priority for the United States.”

Carney also added that “even as we disagree on other key issues,” the U.S. government looks forward cooperating with Iran in finding the retired FBI agent.

Secretary of State John Kerry also echoed the same sentiments, saying that, “The United States continues to welcome the assistance of our international partners in this investigation and calls on the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to uphold its offer to help find Mr. Levinson and return him safely to his family."

On the other hand, while Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi holds that his country is willing to help in an investigation, he has also made it clear they have very little to offer in terms of information.

“We have said many times that we do not have any information in this regard,” he said, but also added that “we are ready to cooperate through the intelligence entities to shed light on this issue. I once again repeat that this person is not in Iran and the Americans have already acknowledged this.”

The purported evidence of Levinson not being in Iran comes from a photo that was released by Levinson’s wife, Christine, who last heard from her husband on March 8, 2007. In the photo, Levinson is donning a orange jumpsuit, eerily similar to the ones worn by prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Detention center in Cuba. He is also holding multiple placards in the photos that read messages like “This is the result of 30 years serving for USA,” “I am here in Guantanamo do you know where it is?” and “Fourth year … you cant or you don’t want …?” (to help, I’m assuming, would be the rest of that message.)

However, despite Iran’s claims that Levinson is not within the boundaries of their country, the State Department cited reports in 2011 saying that he was being held in the border region of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. With trust practically non-existent between the two countries, it is likely that even as the U.S. and Iran work together, this case will be shrouded in mystery and half-truths, at best.

Although Levinson’s disappearance was formerly yet another point of contention between the two countries whose relations are already hostile, it now has the potential to transform into a show of cooperation — one that the U.S. and Iran can hopefully build upon. 

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Areej Elahi-Siddiqui

A Pakistani-American undergraduate student at the Seton Hall's School of Diplomacy and International Relations. She enjoys watching inordinate amounts of television, reading far too many books and drinking lots and lots of coffee.

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