Skip to comments.Missing American Feared a Victim of 'Dirty War'
Posted on 04/14/2007 5:36:53 AM PDT by nuconvert
Missing American Feared a Victim of 'Dirty War'
April 13, 2007
The Financial Times
Guy Dinmore in Washington and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Just why Robert Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and now private investigator, should venture into Iran to meet a American fugitive wanted for murder in the US remains a mystery that the highest Bush administration authorities are trying to unravel.
As the Financial Times revealed this week, Mr Levinson disappeared on March 8 after a six-hour meeting on the Iranian island of Kish with Dawud Salahuddin, an American who converted to Islam and was recruited by revolutionaries to assassinate an Iranian opposition activist near Washington in 1980.
Friends of Mr Levinson are mystified that he took the risk of travelling for such a meeting. They fear he is the victim of a sting operation by Iranian secret services engaged in an escalating dirty war between the US and Iran, involving hostage-taking and covert cross- border operations.
Mr Salahuddin, who fled to Iran after the 1980 murder and has at times expressed interest in returning to the US to face justice, told the FT in Tehran that he, too, feared Mr Levinson was an innocent victim of the clash between what he calls Irans paranoia about the US and Washingtons misguided foreign policy.
Mr Salahuddin said they registered a room in the Maryam hotel before he, too, was detained that night but released the next day after his Iranian passport was checked. Mr Levinson has not been heard from since. Irans foreign ministry says it does not know where he is. The US believes he is in detention.
Although it was the first meeting of the two men, Mr Salahuddin and Mr Levinson had been in contact for some time and they share contacts.
Mr Levinson is 59. His long career in and out of the FBI focused on counternarcotics and organised crime, mostly Russian.
British American Tobacco told the FT it had employed Mr Levinson through Bishop International security consultancy to take on cigarette smuggling/counterfeiting work in South America. But BAT denied an assertion by Mr Salahuddin that Mr Levinson had been contracted to work for them in the Middle East. Our discussions had nothing to do with money but operational procedures and how to approach the officials in Tehran [about cigarette smuggling], Mr Salahuddin said.
Over the years, Mr Salahuddin who goes by the name of Hassan Abdulrahman in Iran, where he is married to an Iranian and works as an editor developed an intense relationship over the telephone with Carl Shoffler, a legendary Washington DC police detective.
Mr Shoffler, who died in 1996, followed the 1980 murder file and tried to persuade Mr Salahuddin to return to the US. Mr Salahuddin says he nearly did. In the meantime he helped Mr Shoffler liaise with an Iranian criminal investigator on tracking down drug smugglers bringing heroin from Afghanistan through Iran and on to the west. Mr Levinson shared those same interests.
There is another theory for Mr Levinsons journey to Kish a possible media connection. In 2002, Ira Silverman, a former NBC chief investigative producer, went to Tehran to meet Mr Salahuddin and wrote about him in the New Yorker magazine. He noted that his capture would be a triumph for law enforcement, but also argued that from an intelligence perspective he would be more useful left in place because of his access to the inner circles in Iran .
Mr Silverman was also a friend of Mr Levinson and Mr Shoffler. Acquaintances believe he introduced Mr Levinson to the fugitive with a documentary in mind. Mr Silverman declined to be interviewed for this article.
A US official, who asked not to be named, said US authorities also suspected that Mr Levinson was on a media mission. He did not name Mr Silverman.
Last week, Jalal Sharafi, an Iranian diplomat who was abducted by Iraqi gunmen in Baghdad in February, was freed just two days before Iran released 15 captured British sailors and marines. The US denied Mr Sharafis allegations that he was tortured by the CIA.
Meanwhile, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guards general, Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in Turkey this year, is still missing. The US denies any knowledge of his whereabouts.
Anatol Lieven, analyst at the New America Foundation think-tank, said the US and Iran were tearing up the rules of engagement over their struggle for Iraq and beyond. During the cold war, there was nastiness at the edges but there were understood rules on how governments secret services treated each other. That doesnt apply any more.
Trying to get a story on heroin from Afghanistan???
Anyway, all I can say is: Stupid is as stupid does.
Anybody that used to be in the FBI and would then venture into Iran has got to know they would be a target.
I don’t think the heroin angle of the story has much to do with the documentary angle.
In any case, info from this Salahuddin can’t be trusted.
TEHRAN, April 13: A former FBI agent is being held by Iranian authorities, the Financial Times on Friday quoted an associate of the missing American as saying. Diplomats fear the case of Robert Levinson could mark a new twist in the round of apparent tit-for-tat detentions involving the United States, Britain and Iran, which began with the detention by US forces in Iraq of five Iranians in January.
Washington has made an official inquiry to Iran about Levinson, who US officials say went there on private business.
Tehran says it is trying to find out what happened to him.
The Financial Times quoted Dawud Salahuddin himself a US citizen wanted by US authorities for an alleged murder in 1980 as saying he and Levinson had shared a hotel room on the Gulf island of Kish on March 8.
Iranian officials in plain clothes detained and questioned Salahuddin about his Iranian passport, Salahuddin said.
On his release a day later Levinson had disappeared and the Iranian officials told Salahuddin he had left Iran.
Thanks. No surprise though, eh?
Also, he may be Jewish.
A twofer for the Islamics.
If he really was following up on drug traders, then he was following people who are among the most dangerous in the world - and are also rich, well-connected, and operating through government agencies. A chilling possibility.
Otherwise, if it was wanting to make a documentary about the American convert ... I just don’t know. The Iranians might think it a cover for other intelligence activities.
February 3, 2009
Note: The following text is a quote:
Ongoing Efforts to Locate and Return American Who Went Missing in Iran
The FBI’s investigation into Mr. Levinson’s disappearance is ongoing. We are encouraged by the Government of Iran’s offer to work with the FBI in an effort to locate Mr. Levinson and return him home to his family safely. We immediately responded to that offer accepting their assistance and continue to await a response. We are working closely with the U.S. Department of State to facilitate communication with the Government of Iran. We continue to update the Levinson family in this humanitarian effort. We ask anyone with information to come forward and contact the FBI at www.fbi.gov.
Joseph Persichini, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBIs Washington Field Office