Will the Death of Robert Levinson Deteriorate the US-Iran Relations Even More?

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution and the relations between Iran and the US have been on the verge of war. Particularly after the supporters of the Islamic revolution seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, when over 50 American citizens were held hostage for over 400 days until the release of the hostages in 1981. This action by the protestors started a series of endless clashes between Iran and the United States. The latest one as we have witnessed the assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the missiles shot back and forth on the Iraqi soil.

Behind all these clashes, there are exciting stories and many backstabbing politics between both nations, in particular, the case of Robert Levinson.

Levinson was a former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation officer (FBI). He went on a trip to Kish Island, Iran in 2007 and disappeared. His disappearance is believed to be from anonymous individuals. Later, it turns out Levinson’s purpose of the trip was not honorary. He was on a secret mission for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). For over three years, Levinson’s family nor the American authorities knew where he is until the kidnappers released a video in 2011 that flamed the fire around his case even more. Watch the video

The video showed Levinson drained mentally and physically. The purpose of the video was not just to inform the American authorities that he’s alive, but also in the video, Levinson appeared to be wearing the same gown prisoners wear in Guantanamo Bay. Which could be a strong message to the US for its framing of freedom and democracy while in Guantanamo prisoners witness the most elevated types of enhanced interrogation.

However, by bringing more politics into this, we have to question, if what happened to Levinson was right or wrong? And who is involved?

Until now it is still considered a one-sided case, it is confirmed by the Associated Press (AP) that Levinson was a CIA agent and the government of Iran has no involvement with his kidnap. The response that for years came out from the Iranian government remained the same, which was “We don’t know where he is, who he is. He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him.” The words of the former Iranian President Rouhani seemed to be taking Levinson’s case nowhere. Without prejudice to Iran but the US played a game with a dangerous opponent that has its propaganda full of hate towards the US for over 35 years.

What did the CIA expect the Iranian government response to be when there is a spy on their soil? Or as the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in the UN General Assembly “what was an American intelligence officer doing in Iran?”

So it should be considered as a very humble step from the Iranian government to file a case for Levinson in the Iranian revolutionary court. And It is very peculiar to witness the US government making claims and accusations against the Iranian government without any pieces of evidence. Taking the case further and getting international bodies such as the UN to make Levinson’s case a global issue is not going to help.

Generally, no one can deny that the US is an influential nation with a strong economic and political influence. But when zooming in to the US politics for the past four years, I think this influence is fading—not going to emphasis much on their national politics or their failing healthcare system that we are currently witnessing. But more into this deteriorating international influence. Even before Levinson’s death in March 2020, the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump’s administration seemed to think that it is a minor achievement to make a deal with Iran, particularly after almost 40 years of aversion. So that makes it possible for the Iranian government to have information about the kidnapped spy, but with the elevation of disagreements Iran is confronting, it is expected for their cooperation to be obstinate.

The strange part was the reaction after Levinson’s death in March 2020. The US, after Levinson's death, started slamming more sanctions against Iran in particular against more business and around 12 individuals. But for the past 40 years, does that seem to be working? Because multiple researchers don’t think so. Statistically, it is demonstrated by Ali Gheissari in his book ‘Contemporary Iran: Economy, Society, Politics’ that: “Iran’s economy has grown on average by 5.8 per cent per year during 2000– 2004, a trend that puts Iran above the median for growth among developing countries if continued”.

In the end, Levinson’s case is just one out of hundreds of disagreements between the US and Iran. The full blame, however, shall not be on Iran, since Iran is just like any other nation cautious for its national security, especially with its geographic location. Iran has been known to be a furious opposition to the US, so the disappearance and death of an American spy on the Iranian soil is predicted. The clash between the US and Iran has taken too long, and it keeps on developing. The United States’ strategy of economic sanctions has failed. Iran, until this day, still finds an equivalent financial solution and still gets out of each economic burden. The US yet does not acknowledge the issue and diplomatically find a solution, their assassinations on Iranian officials do nothing more but weakening the relations, increasing conflicts in the Middle East and making Iran a firmer opposition with more intransigence that will never cooperate with cases such as Robert Levinson.

The Politician Independent Newspaper, created in 2020