In his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner 2016 President Obama celebrated Jason Rezaian’s release from Iranian captivity stating “Last year we spoke of Jason’s courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison..and I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will and we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had”.
When Iran freed US hostages following the implementation of the nuclear deal, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, the world celebrated “triumph” – even though Iran arrested a new American victim soon after, indicating that no real change of heart had taken place in the Islamic republic.
There is yet another US citizen who has apparently been in Iran for far longer, and who was not part of the prisoner swap which took place earlier this year – Robert Levinson – now 68, a former FBI investigator-turned-CIA contractor who disappeared in Iran almost a decade ago, becoming the longest-held civilian hostage in US history. These days, Levinson is getting quite a bit of press following the release of Barry Meier’s book Missing Man: The American Spy Who Vanished in Iran.
Levinson’s son Dan has also been active on the media front, publishing an op-ed in The Washington Post and The New York Post lamenting that his father has been “left behind” to “rot” in Iran even as other captives – such as Rezaian – have come home, indicating that his freedom is a “secondary issue” to rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.
Levinson the younger – who recently traveled to the Iranian island of Kish, where Levinson the elder last traveled before he vanished – recounted the “nightmare” his family had endured for “nine years and counting,” suggesting that Iran has no “incentive” to free his father “if it is already being handed everything it wants” (Dan’s sister, Sarah, made similar comments).
While Iran continues to deny any knowledge of Levinson, Iranian officials have admitted to holding him – and there are indications Iran was willing to release him in exchange for Western concessions on the nuclear front.
In the wake of the publication of Meier’s book, the press has been raising some burning questions about Levinson: whether he was on a rogue CIA mission, whether his actions and intentions were misinterpreted and how the CIA failed their spy.
Most, however, glossed over what is perhaps the most pertinent questions of all: If Levinson would have been a journalist, instead of CIA agent, would he be home with his seven children? What does Levinson’s continued captivity say about the world’s willingness to tolerate the broader human rights situation in Iran? How far and wide is the world community prepared to overlook and ignore for political and economic interests?