Trump Administration Sanctions 2 Iranian Officials Over Levinson Disappearance

Dec 14, 2020
Originally published on December 14, 2020 1:27 pm

The Trump administration sanctioned two Iranian officials over the disappearance and probable death of Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007 during an unauthorized mission for the CIA.

The Treasury Department said Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, high-ranking officials with Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, were involved in Levinson's abduction, detention and probable death.

The official says the designation puts the responsibility for Levinson's disappearance squarely on Iran. "It's a very important acknowledgment, probably long overdue," the official said on a conference call with reporters. The official said the sanctions were "a complex case" that required time, a senior U.S. official told reporters on Monday.

Levinson's family announced in March that they had received information from U.S. officials that he had died. The officials told reporters that all evidence points to Levinson having likely died in captivity, but said that the U.S. government continues to try to find answers about his time in captivity.

The sanctions would freeze any assets that the two officials have in the United States and would block financial dealings with them. While it's unlikely that the two Iranian officials have foreign bank accounts that can be frozen with the sanctions, officials told reporters there were secondary sanctions that would make any foreign financial transactions with the officials subject to sanctions.

The officials told reporters that any future negotiations with Iran must include the safe return of all Americans held in the country.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.