Nine years after Robert Levinson went missing on an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf, the White House reiterated on Wednesday that the United States has not abandoned him.
“We continue to call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to provide assistance in his case, as agreed to as part of the prisoner exchange finalized earlier this year, so that we can bring Mr. Levinson home,” press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement on Wednesday, the ninth anniversary of the former FBI agent’s disappearance.
“Today the United States renews its unrelenting commitment to securing Mr. Levinson's return.”
Wednesday’s anniversary follows Levinson’s notable absence in a deal reached earlier this year between Washington and Tehran to release four Americans in Iran and drop charges on people in the U.S. accused of violating sanctions restrictions. The agreement came on the eve of implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.
Levinson’s family did not know whether he was included in the swap until after initial media reports emerged, leaving them frustrated.
His daughter, Sarah Moriarty, claimed at the time that the family had “reached our breaking point” with the Obama administration.
“We are crushed and outraged," she said.
Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonOvernight Tech: Big win for Samsung over Apple | Trump to sit down with tech leaders | Trump claims credit for B investment deal Celebrating Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act’s first anniversary Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks MORE (D-Fla.), an outspoken advocate for Levinson and his family, took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to complain about “a huge disconnect in the FBI” concerning Levinson’s case.
“What in the world is going on?” he asked.
In its statement, the White House claimed that he has not been forgotten.
“Our hearts remain with the Levinson family,” Earnest claimed. “They have endured the pain and suffering of his disappearance for far too long.”
Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish island in 2007 while taking part in an off-the-books CIA operation.
The Obama administration has said that it does not believe he is currently in Iran but has repeatedly pressed officials in Tehran to help him be recovered. It’s unclear whether he’s even still alive.
On the Senate floor, Nelson insisted that “somebody in Iran” must know about his whereabouts — even if the country’s president and foreign minister claim not to have any idea.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryAs Congress adjusts to Trump, Iran put under the pressure it deserves Sharpton pressures Dems on Trump nominees Words are not enough — US must support Christians who survived genocide in Iraq MORE said that Iran “has committed to cooperating with the United States” to finding Levinson.
The Obama administration, he added, is “holding Iran to its promise.”
Corrected to note that Josh Earnest delivered the White House's statement and last updated at 1:11 p.m.