The son of a former U.S. FBI agent who went missing in Iran 10 years ago is urging the Trump administration to “constantly annoy” Tehran into locating his father, whom he believes is still alive.
Daniel Levinson spoke to VOA’s Persian service in Washington on Thursday, the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of his father, Robert Levinson.
Watch: Son of Former FBI Agent Missing in Iran for 10 Years
“Simply asking for the Iranian government’s help in locating my dad is not going to be enough anymore,” Daniel Levinson said. He said the Trump administration should “constantly annoy” Iranian authorities by negotiating through private channels.
He also wrote a column in The Washington Post saying that if Iran fails to act, President Donald Trump should impose more sanctions on the country or declare its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
Robert Levinson, whose 69th birthday is Friday, disappeared March 9, 2007, while visiting Iran’s Kish Island as a private investigator. He had retired from a 22-year career with the FBI, and six years before that with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
In 2013, the Associated Press reported that Levinson had been part of a rogue CIA intelligence mission, a claim that U.S. authorities have not confirmed.
In 2010, his family received a proof-of-life video of Levinson looking gaunt and pleading with U.S. authorities to help him. But there was no word on who was holding Levinson or why, and no images of him have been received since 2011.
Undated handout photo shows retired FBI agent Robert Levinson. His family received these photographs in April 2011.
His family has said it believes Iranian authorities detained him, but Tehran has repeatedly denied knowledge of his whereabouts.
In his interview with VOA Persian, Daniel Levinson said FBI officials have told the family that they have no evidence that he is not alive.
“There has been information that has trickled in over the years that showed signs that my dad was being held, had been moved around, and I believe that’s the case,” he said.
Timeline of Robert Levinson's time in Iran
Daniel Levinson said his family, who lives in Coral Springs, Florida, hopes to meet the president and other administration officials in Washington in the coming days.
“Trump is a dealmaker,” he said. “I think that it’s going to require a deal to get my dad home and a dialogue between the two sides.”
Trump campaign promise
While campaigning for the presidency last year, Trump promised Levinson would return if he won the election.
“We’re going to hold him to that, and we’re going make sure that he holds the Iranians to their promises to continue to work to get my dad home,” the younger Levinson told VOA.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer issued a statement Thursday saying the Trump administration “remains unwavering in our commitment to locate Levinson and bring him home … and we will spare no effort to achieve that goal.”
Spicer also called on Iran to fulfill its commitment to cooperating with the U.S. to find Levinson.
In a separate statement, the FBI said it has worked tirelessly on the case and “continue(s) to pursue every lead collected through interviews, intelligence reporting and contact with foreign governments.”
The Trump administration also reiterated its $5 million reward for “for any information that could lead to (Levinson’s) safe return.”
Daniel Levinson said his family also is seeking information about his father through its Facebook page and website.
“It’s been 10 years, and we’re desperate for any kind of answers that might help us bring him home,” Levinson said. “I know the FBI is willing to pounce on any of this information and follow these leads.”