Robert Levinson did not come home with the rest of the released prisoners from Iran. His family has been on a number of stations, including CNN and Fox. People are suddenly interested in those Obama didn’t get released from Iran.
His case is quite different from the other Americans. In Mr. Levinson’s case, the leaders in Iran say they don’t know where Mr. Levinson is. They deny having any involvement with his disappearance. Hence, it is difficult to negotiate for the release of a missing person.
I’ve combed the internet looking at what could have happen to Mr. Levinson. Is there proof that Mr. Levinson is alive? Honestly, I really hate to say this but the evidence is weak. But, the family believes strongly that he is in fact, still alive and imprisoned in Iran. They believe the Iranian officials are lying when they deny any knowledge of his whereabouts. Their hope increased as the Iran deal was negotiated, and hope Mr. Levinson would be”found” and returned to the US as part of the negotiations.
There have been two photographs of Mr. Levinson, received by his family. It is possible that these are fakes. It is terrible that anyone could intentionally inflict more pain on the family by creating fake photos. But there are all sorts of very weird people in this country.
The proof that Mr. Levinson went to Iran in year 2007 is rock solid. He was staying on Kirk Island which is part of Iran. His signature on a check out bill, dated March 9, 2007 from a hotel in Kirk Island. It was reported in the Iranian state run PressTV on April 4, 2007 that he had been take into custody on March 9, 2007 and would be released shortly. His family has confirmed that his name does not appear on any flight manifests leaving Kirk Island. This is where the trail goes cold. And it’s been cold for nearly 9 years.
Unlike the other prisoners, Iran has never accused Mr. Levinson of doing anything wrong. In fact, when members of his family went to Kirk Island in December 2007, they say the Iranian officials treated them well.
There are a lot more details on Mr. Levinson’s trip, which had been summarize in Wikipedia:
His family has created a website, with many links to news media stories:
It is just possible that Iranians just might be telling the truth. Anyone who has knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, can make a quick 5 million dollars, courtesy of the FBI.
Of course, the news media has jumped all over the prisoner release and Mr. Levinson’s case. Republican candidates like Marco Rubio has widely condemned the prisoner swap, as putting American’s imperil. I guess the idea is that a president of any country can just scoop up a few Americans, and negotiate with the White House to get their countrymen released as part of an exchange. It is pretty silly, as most of the foreigners in our prisons are people their own governments want to be released.
Travel always carries some risk, and in general, more care has to be taken in a number of countries. I happen to have some experience with this, having visited a number of countries in South America, Africa and the Middle East, including Syria, Libya, Colombia and Angola. There is always a risk of kidnapping and robbery. Interestingly, kidnapping of foreigners is rare in the Middle East countries, but theft occurs in all major cities. Miami has a lot of theft too. Take my word for it!
But Americans were safe from the possibility of kidnapping in Iran, because money could not be wired into the country. But, with the lifting of sanctions, this has changed. However, I do not expect kidnapping to be a major problem, as most tourists will travel in organized groups. Any money wired into the country for ransom will be quickly tracked down, and the kidnappers will be arrested.
Countries like Egypt, Algeria and Libya can pose risks for foreign journalists, but not for tourists. A journalist who is relocated to Iran from Nigeria may actually feel more secure. It is all relative. Tourists must behave themselves. This is probably rule number 1 in travel: Respect, courtesy and patience are absolute requisites- it’s not your country.
A lot of good tips are available on the internet for the intrepid traveler. The cell phone is your friend and constant companion. Learn speed dialing! If you enjoy wandering around strange places, as I do, learn to keep a low profile. Learn from nature- it is always better to travel in a group. Local contacts can be essential.
But, I seem to be digressing here. Bob Levinson’s disappearance is a tragedy. The information on his disappearance is very sparse. The disappearance should not become political. There is no evidence Iran is hiding him, and it is not particularly useful for the US to demand release of a missing person or to accuse Iran of lying. The 5 million dollars reward by the FBI for information was a good idea. Americans traveling abroad to Iran in general should not be worried about being detained by the Iranian government, but also follow safe traveling tips.