The United States has sanctioned two senior officials of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the MOIS, for their involvement in the abduction, detention, and probable death of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, the longest held hostage in U.S. history.
Robert Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island during a trip in 2007. Photographs of Mr. Levinson and a video of his pleading to be rescued from unidentified captors were sent to his family in 2011 and 2010 respectively. The Iranian government responded to requests for help in discovering what had happened to him by denying any knowledge of his whereabouts.
Now the United States is holding the two MOIS officials – Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai – accountable for what the White House called their “direct involvement” in his abduction, detention and probable death.
“It is clear that not only were senior Iranian officials responsible for Mr. Levinson’s disappearance, but that they took deliberate actions to obscure their involvement through an extensive disinformation campaign,” the White House noted in a written statement. “With this announcement, the United States Government is initiating the first public actions against the Iranian government to hold them accountable…The United States will relentlessly pursue all others involved as the investigation continues.”
The designation of Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai by the U.S. Department of the Treasury means that any property the men hold in the United States is blocked; no U.S. persons can do business with them, and foreign financial institutions that engage in significant transactions with them are also subject to sanctions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that the Iranian regime has a 41-year history of abducting and detaining foreigners and dual nationals as political leverage. “We reiterate our strong warning to U.S. citizens and dual nationals that traveling to Iran may jeopardize their personal safety,” he said in a statement.
“The abduction, detention and probable death of Mr. Levinson [are] another egregious example of the regime’s callous disregard toward human life,” declared Secretary Pompeo. “We call on the Iranian regime to provide a full accounting of Mr. Levinson’s fate, and we will not rest until all Americans wrongfully detained by Iran are back home.”