[A-List] US-Iran "dirty war"
michael011 at fastmail.fm
Thu Apr 19 07:31:33 MDT 2007
Missing American feared a victim of 'dirty war'
By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Financial Times: April 14 2007
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
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 Iran's paranoia about the US and
Washington's 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. Iran's
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 Levinson's 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
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
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
Sharafi's 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 doesn't apply any more."
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