Yellow Ribbon Project

Congress Calls on Iran to Follow Through on Returning Bob Levinson

Christine Levinson, center, wife of Robert Levinson, and her children, Dan and Samantha Levinson, talk to reporters in New York on Jan. 18, 2016. They expressed happiness for the families of prisoners released from Iranian custody but wished government officials had warned them he would not be among them. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution calling on Iran to actually follow through on its years-long assertion that it would help locate America’s longest-held hostage.

Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, went missing off the coast of Iran in March 2007 while working as a private investigator. Levinson’s family later received images of him in captivity, though the Iranian government has maintained they don’t know who is holding him.

“Cooperating is not enough. Robert Levinson has been left behind. This is not acceptable,” tweeted the Levinson family last month after other Americans held hostage by the Iranian government were released in a prisoner swap.

The Senate resolution comes from Levinson’s home state senators — Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Nelson (D-Fla.) — and notes that on Jan. 16 White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the U.S. government had “secured a commitment from the Iranians to use the channel that has now been opened to secure the release of those individuals that we know were being held by Iran…to try and gather information about Mr. Levinson’s possible whereabouts.”

It urges Iran “to act on its promises to assist in the case of Robert Levinson and to immediately provide all available information from all entities of the Government of Iran regarding the disappearance of Robert Levinson to the United States Government.”

The resolution also urges President Obama and U.S. allies “to continue to raise with officials of the Government of Iran the case of Robert Levinson at every opportunity, notwithstanding ongoing and serious disagreements the United States Government has with the Government of Iran on a broad array of issues, including Iran’s ballistic missile program, sponsorship of international terrorism, and human rights abuses.”

“It is outrageous that the Iranian government has failed to provide information that would help bring Bob home,” Rubio said after Senate passage. “The Obama Administration missed an opportunity to make the freedom of Americans held in Iran a priority during the nuclear negotiations, and has left Bob’s case unresolved even as they have continued to make concession after concession to Tehran.”

“Bob and his family deserve much better,” he added. “This sends an important message that America stands with the Levinsons and we want to see the Iranian regime provide information regarding the whereabouts of Bob so that his wife and their seven children can get the answers they deserve.”

On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa also passed a similar resolution from Levinson’s congressman and the ranking member on the committee, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

Bob’s wife, Christine, and son Daniel Levinson were at the committee hearing for the resolution’s passage.

“In just one month, we will mark nine years since Bob Levinson disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007,” said Deutch. “And in those nine years, the Levinson family has never given up on their efforts to bring their husband and father home. They deserve to feel the same elation and relief felt by the families of the other Americans released by Iran in the recent prisoner exchange.”

The FBI is offering a $5 million reward “for information leading directly to the location and return” of Levinson.

“Bob forever remains part of the FBI family, and we remain committed to bringing him home safely to the family who misses him so much,” the Bureau said in a statement after the release of five other Americans. “The FBI expects our Iranian counterparts to fulfill their commitment to locate Bob and help bring him home safely.”

“We continue to investigate and follow up on all information we receive, no matter how insignificant it might seem.”

In a curious twist to Levinson’s story, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, an American released in the prisoner swap who was a mystery to the media, reportedly came under surveillance by Iranian authorities after sending an FBI contact a message in 2013, claiming that he had information about Levinson. The California carpet designer, who goes by Fred Khosravi, had taught English while back in Iran to visit his elderly mother and fell in love with one of his students, IranWire reported.

The words “Robert” and “Levinson” are reportedly keywords monitored by Iranian intelligence, resulting in Khosravi’s seizure when he tried to fly back to the U.S. last May. He was charged with espionage and sending “secret information” to “a hostile government,” and sent to infamous Ward 209 of Evin prison. Khosravi reportedly told a judge that he was drunk when he sent the message about Levinson to his FBI contact.