The United States should retaliate against Iran over the death of its American hostage, Robert Levinson.

The U.S. Intelligence Community has now made a high confidence assessment that Levinson died in Iranian custody at some point in the past several years. That assessment is based on a range of evidence but centers on intercepted Iranian communications showing officials’ uncertainty about how to handle increasing U.S. pressure over Levinson’s fate. Levinson’s family was infuriated by the Obama administration’s lack of concern over Levinson’s case and had welcomed the Trump administration’s increased engagement with his situation.

A former FBI agent, Levinson was captured by Iran’s intelligence service in 2007 while investigating corruption on Iran’s Kish Island. Levinson was motivated by a desire to renew a contract with CIA analysts who did not have operational authority to deploy him as a field agent. But then he went missing. It is highly likely that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, the unit formerly led by Qassem Soleimani, controlled Levinson’s detention, believing it could use him as leverage. Recall that 2007 was a period of reciprocal U.S.-Iranian hostage taking as the two sides escalated their battle in Iraq.

Levinson and his family weren’t simply treated badly, they were treated horribly. For a start, Levinson’s original activities on Kish Island were hardly a direct threat to Tehran’s interests. Levinson was simply asking questions on a tourist hot spot. But after he was captured, the Iranians are believed to have panicked in fear of U.S. retaliation. So they staged an elaborate hoax that involved sending officers to Pakistan to upload videos of Levinson, which they hoped would lead U.S. intelligence community to assess he was being held by the Taliban or al Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

It didn’t work. The videos were too obvious in their leading elements, including Pashtun tribal music playing in the background of one video, for example. And the National Security Agency intercepted communications of Iranian officials discussing Levinson’s custody on their soil. For a long time, Iran denied that it had ever detained Levinson. And although it slightly changed its tune in recent years, the Iranian government refused to take the issue of resolving his fate seriously.

Ultimately, Iran let Levinson die of his health conditions or maybe even eliminated him. Either way, Iran is directly culpable, and the U.S. should ensure that consequences follow.

Source » washingtoneaminer