Washington sanctions Tehran for FBI agent disappearance
In the last days of the Donald Trump presidency in the United States, the administration’s pressure on Iran remains very high. In a few hours, Trump’s staff have sent several signals. And at the same time, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has responded with other moves. The news of the day is that the United States is now directly blaming Iran for the disappearance and “probable death” of FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran in 2007.The accusation comes on a move by the Treasury Department, which announced on Monday new sanctions against two senior officials of the government of Tehran, Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai.
According to many reports, the two officials are members of the Iranian intelligence system, accused of being the perpetrators of Levinson’s kidnapping. The Treasury Department, announcing the sanctions, accused the Iranian government of having set up the plan first to make the American agent disappear and then to cover its role with a disinformation campaign.Already a few months ago, the Trump administration had concluded that it believed Levinson was dead, without giving the reasons for this conclusion. In October, a Washington court ordered Iran to pay Levinson’s family $ 1.35 billion to compensate them for the loss.
Levinson disappeared on March 9, 2007, on the island of Kish, where he was supposed to meet with a source. At first, it was reported that the agent was working on a private investigation. But “The Associated Press” revealed six years later that Levinson was on a mission for CIA analysts, who did not have the authority to order such operation.The family presented evidences that Levinson was still alive in 2010 and then a video in 2011, when they received some photos of him with a long beard and orange jumpsuit similar to those of the Guantanamo inmates.
The sanctions against the two Tehran intelligence officials come just days after the transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden, so much so that a US intelligence source tells the Washington Post that the move could be an attempt to put limits on the space of Biden’s maneuver with Iran.”There should never again be a negotiated deal with Iran that does not provide for the release of Americans who are unjustly prisoners in that country.” The source of the administration tells the Washington Post, adding that they expect negotiations to resume next year, but they must include the return home of three American citizens.
On the Iranian front, President Hassan Rouhani spoke yesterday to send several messages. The first, to the United States and Europe, on the contents of a possible new nuclear deal. Tehran wants the United States to return to respect the one signed with Barack Obama and abandoned by Trump in 2018. But Washington reaffirmed the need to extend the pact also to ballistic missiles, not just nuclear power. “President Biden knows very well that the Iranian missile program is non-negotiable and will not enter any new discussions,” Rouhani affirmed.
The Iranian president explains this precisely because the issue of the Iranian ballistic program has long been on the table. Without resorting to nuclear weapons, Iran, by developing its missile capabilities, would be able to keep many Arab countries in the region and Israel itself under threat. For this reason, for days, even European governments – most recently the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas – have argued that they will return to dealing with Iran only if Tehran agrees to talk about its missile programs. But Rouhani rejected this possibility.
The Iranian president then cites the case of the European protests for the Zam case, the journalist hanged last week, accused of having instigated and organized the revolt of December 2018 with his messages on Telegram. “I don’t think it will damage our relations with Europe. The Iranian judicial system is independent of the will of the government.” The president says, indicating that his execution complied with local law.