Commentary: Iran must help find missing Florida man

February 6, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

In the nearly two years since Robert "Bob" Levinson of Coral Springs vanished during a trip to Iran in March 2007, the government of that country has done little to find out what happened to him. It claims to know nothing about the case, but there is some evidence to the contrary. Bob Levinson may even be alive. If nothing else, common decency and diplomatic convention should make Iran feel obligated to do what it can to clear up this case.

Retired from the FBI for nine years, Mr. Levinson was in Iran on private business. According to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who is aiding the family, the belief that Mr. Levinson is alive rests on solid ground. At least one person living in Iran claims the Florida man was detained there. Six weeks after the disappearance, Sen. Nelson adds, the official press arm of the Iranian government issued a press release that said Mr. Levinson was in custody and that his release was forthcoming.

The government subsequently changed its tune. Iranian officials properly promised to help wife Christine Levinson and other relatives during a visit in December of 2007, but little action has been forthcoming.

Sen. Nelson believes the government wants something in return. He may be right. Whenever U.S. officials or intermediaries raise the Levinson case, the Iranian government brushes it aside but then raises the issue of Iranians held by U.S. forces in Erbil, Iraq. If the Iranians are looking for a swap, they should say so, and U.S. officials should consider the merits of such action.

Members of Congress can help by supporting a resolution introduced by Sen. Nelson and U.S. Rep. Bob Wexler, D-Boca Raton. It calls on Iran to divulge information on the whereabouts of Bob Levinson. A South Florida family has been waiting for nearly two years to learn what happened to their husband and father. It is time to end their anguish.

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