Saturday, December 14, 2013

We Don't Need Homeland's Saul or Carrie to Solve the Mystery of How and Why CIA Agent Robert Levinson Disappeared in Iran

The capture of Levinson (r.) reads like a Homeland episode gone wrong.

As the season finale of Homeland nears, with viewers wondering how and if the CIA's Saul and Brody will manage to extricate agent Brody from Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps HQ, where he has just killed the IRGC's head--by bashing his skull and smothering him with a pillow in his own office--this much is clear: we don't need Homeland heroes to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a real-life CIA spy, Robert Levinson, who vanished during his March 2007 visit to Iran's Kish island.

It's pretty clear that Levinson was lured to Kish by Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive living in Iran with longstanding ties to Iran's intelligence and terrorism apparatus. A convert to Islam who was born David Belfield, Salhuddin is the unrepentant, confessed murderer of a former Iranian Embassy press attache--on American soil. He shot Ali Tabatabai to death in the doorway of his Bethesda, MD home on July 22, 1980 in a well planned assassination that was directed by Iranian intelligence operatives. They supplied Salahuddin with a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier's truck and uniform and an escape route to Iran via Canada and Switzerland.

There is reason to believe that the assassin was allowed to escape by the Carter administration in a craven attempt to curry favor with Iran's revolutionary regime in order to obtain the release of the Americans taken hostage in the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. As the founding president of the Iran Freedom Foundation, which he ran from the basement of his suburban Washington, DC-area home, Tabatabai had become a thorn in the regime's side--an effective activist focusing media attention on regime atrocities and terrorist connections. He was gunned down days before an Iran Freedom Foundation rally following repeated death threats that led to his seeking FBI and police protection without success.

His death served as a powerful demonstration of the regime's ability to destroy its enemies, even in the United States. The pro-democracy Iran Freedom Foundation died with Tabatabai, who, ironically, had once run afoul of pre-revolutionary Iran's dreaded secret police--which unjustly accused him of being anti-monarchist--only to be saved from imprisonment and worse by his last boss, Imperial Iran's charismatic ambassador to Washington, Ardeshir Zahedi.

Why was Levinson lured to Iran? Most probably to capture and interrogate him--that is to say, to torture him into revealing everything he knew about CIA operations, methods and procedures--and to hold him hostage for a future prisoner exchange.

Which, if that is indeed what happened, means that the assassin Salahuddin is also an accomplice in the kidnaping and torture of an American citizen.

With history repeating, or, at least, rhyming, as Mark Twain famously put it, in the context of the Obama administration's apparent eagerness to strike a Grand Bargain with Iran's monstrous regime, one wonders if Levinson will be at last be freed, assuming that he is still alive and is being held by Iran or its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.

The answer to that is probably.

One also wonders if Salahuddin/Belfield will at last be brought to justice.

The answer to that is probably not. The American has been a useful and loyal regime asset (notwithstanding comments he has made to interviewers concerning alleged corruption by some regime pragmatists). His handlers are not likely to betray him.

As for Homeland, this reporter predicts a bombing or drone strike on IRGC headquarters or a diversionary attack of some sort. The challenge is to rescue Brody without compromising the mission, which was to replace the slain IRGC chief with his recently turned (into a CIA spy) second-in-command.

Time will tell … about Brody and Levinson.

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