On the day marking four decades since Islamist revolutionaries orchestrated the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Iran — and the prolonged hostage crisis that followed — the Trump administration announced Monday a major increase in reward money for information on the whereabouts of a retired FBI agent missing in the country for over a decade.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program is now offering up to $20 million for information leading to the location, recovery and return of Robert Levinson.
“The Trump Administration has made clear that the regime in Iran must release all missing and wrongfully detained Americans, including Robert Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi, and others,” Pompeo said in a statement. “We will not rest until they are reunited with their families.”
Levinson, if alive, is the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.
Levinson retired from the FBI in 1998. He was 58 years old and working as a private investigator when he traveled to Kish Island, Iran, on March 8, 2007 as part of an unauthorized CIA mission. He was allegedly investigating cigarette smuggling — and possibly working on a book — but after checking into the Maryam Hotel, he met with an American fugitive targeted by the CIA for recruitment, a source close to the Levinson case told Fox News in 2016.
Dawud Salahuddin, also known as David Belfield and Hassan Abdulrahman, is still wanted for the 1980 murder of an Iranian diplomat in Maryland. But Levinson was hoping a successful mission that delivered Salahuddin as a CIA asset would lead to Levinson gaining full-time employment with the agency, the source told Fox News at the time.
But then, Levinson disappeared.
The last affirmed proof of life, photos that showed Levinson dressed in an orange jumpsuit, emerged in late 2011. Despite those images, Iranian officials have insisted they have no knowledge of him or his whereabouts and are not holding him as a political prisoner.
This undated handout photo provided by the family of Robert Levinson after they received it in April 2011, shows retired-FBI agent Robert Levinson.
Levinson’s family, however, holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.
The increase in the reward for information on Monday was dramatic compared to prior amounts. A $1 million reward for information in 2012 was increased to $5 million in March 2015 by the FBI.
In addition to quadrupling the reward money, the Trump administration on Monday slapped new sanctions on nine officials who are among the core supporters of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
Among those sanctioned include Khamenei’s appointees in the Office of the Supreme Leader, the Expediency Council, the Armed Forces General Staff and the Judiciary, according to the State Department.
“The designation seeks to block funds from flowing to a shadow network of Khamenei’s military and foreign affairs advisors who have for decades oppressed the Iranian people, supported terrorism, and advanced destabilizing policies around the world,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The actions also come as Iran disclosed it was doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, further trimming the time experts estimate Tehran needs to have enough material to build a nuclear weapon.
Fox News’ Cristina Corbin, Hollie McKay and Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.