Bob Levinson, of Coral Springs, Still a Prisoner in Iran
By Elliot Goldenberg / March 1, 2016
President Obama who, along with Secretary of State John Kerry and with the backing of most congressional Democrats, negotiated a controversial deal with Iran that could eventually allow the mullahs to build nuclear weapons, has long defended what many, including Israeli leaders, are calling a devil's bargain.
The president was not only criticized for the nuclear deal, however - which he and Kerry called the best they could get under the circumstances - but raised eyebrows as well when the deal didn't include the release of American prisoners in Tehran.
Well, we're now finding out that maybe it did. Unfortunately though, one person still was left behind: Bob Levinson, a businessman and former CIA operative from Coral Springs.
"Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson, missing from Iran for more than eight years," the president said following the freeing of four men who had been held captive, each with dual Iranian-U.S. citizenship.
Those men, some of whom Iran accused as being spies, were Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, and businessman Nosretollah Khosavi-Roodsari.
"Even as we rejoice in the safe return for others we will never forget about Bob," Obama continued. "Each and every day, and especially today, our hearts are with the Levinson family. We will not rest until their family is whole again."
In a statement, Levinson's family said: "We truly hope that he (Obama) keeps his word. Our family needs to be whole again. We are happy for the other families. But once again, Bob Levinson has been left behind. We are devastated."
In a story that appeared in The Washington Post, Levinson's son, Daniel Levinson, a former student at Taravella High School, expressed his personal feelings.
"American and European companies are drafting plans to begin doing business in Iran with the lifting of sanctions as part of this summer's nuclear-weapons agreement, and Westerners are planning visits to the country," he said. "My family and I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous traveling to Iran remains." Ray Moss, the former athletic director at Taravella, recalled knowing the entire Levinson family. "The daughters played sports and I think that both were on a state championship team," Moss said. "I also knew the mom and dad. I thought they were a great family."
In the Washington Post story, Daniel Levinson gave some background as to what happened to his father, who, unlike the other prisoners, is Jewish. "It is widely known that my father was detained on Iran's Kish Island on March 9, 2007," Daniel Levinson noted. "Iranian state media even reported as much at the time, though Tehran now denies knowledge of his whereabouts.
"My mother, my aunt and I went to Iran in late 2007 to retrace my father's footsteps and meet with officials. We were treated well, and I was struck by the kindness of ordinary Iranians, their sympathy for our situation, and the beauty of the country. I would love to return after my father's case is resolved to see more of what Iran has to offer, but I couldn't imagine doing so for 'fun' anytime soon. We urge everyone to think twice before traveling there."
He concluded: "My family has always advocated maintaining an open line of communication between Washington and Tehran, as we believe it can pave the way to improved relations and progress on key issues. We were optimistic about President Obama's pursuit of direct talks with Iranian officials. In particular, we saw the nuclear talks as a golden opportunity to resolve my father's case, so long as both sides were willing to negotiate. However, we were devastated that he was not released in the aftermath of the accord. Now we fear that the United States has squandered its best opportunity for leverage in ensuring my father's safe return home."
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