The move comes almost 14 years after Levinson went missing in Iran and nearly nine months after his family announced they had received information to confirm he was dead.
Iranian intelligence and security officials Mohammed Baseri and Ahmed Khazai were directly involved in the abduction, detention and death of Levinson, senior U.S. government officials told reporters Monday.
“With this statement, the United States government is launching its first public action against the Iranian government to hold Robert Levinson accountable for kidnapping — which has so far held American hostage,” White House Press Secretary Kylie McEnani said in a statement Monday. “The United States is desperately pursuing all the others involved as the investigation continues.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompey on Monday called on the Iranian government to “provide full accountability for Mr Levinson’s fate, and we will not rest until all Americans mistakenly detained by Iran return home.” Family is some answers and justice they deserve. “
In a statement, the Levinson family thanked the Trump administration for the announcement and said it was “only a step down a long way for him to achieve justice, but it is very important.”
“No matter how long it takes, we will find the people responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson and we will be accountable to them,” they said.
Noting the need to protect intelligence sources and methods, a U.S. government official will not discuss how the U.S. government came to the conclusion about Basri and Khazai’s guilt in the Levinson case.
According to Monday’s sanctions, a month before President Donald Trump’s resignation, “all property and interests on the property of these individuals in the U.S. or under the control or control of U.S. individuals should be withheld and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control.” It also provides status for secondary sanctions.
A second senior U.S. government official said there was no reason at the time to declare “this is nothing more than a complicated case.”
“Getting the information, processing it and all the attention that is needed, needs to be released at this point,” they said.
Levinson was abducted in early March 2007 after moving to the Iranian island of Kish, according to the U.S. government.
“We do not know when or how he died, it was only before the COVID-19 epidemic,” they said in a statement at the time.
“It is impossible to describe our pain,” the family said.
Iranian authorities have long maintained that Levinson was not in their custody and that he was unaware of his whereabouts.
“Apart from holding senior Iranian officials responsible for Levinson’s disappearance, it is clear that they have deliberately taken steps to obscure their involvement through widespread misinformation,” McKenzie said.
CNN reached out to the UN Iran mission on Monday to comment on the sanctions.
The first senior government official said on Monday that “they are hopeful that the public naming of these MOIS officers for their involvement in Bob’s disappearance will hopefully come forward with some more information about Bob and the people involved in his capture.”
Senior U.S. government officials have said they are committed to their release. One has called on the incoming Biden administration, which wants Iran to rejoin the nuclear deal, not to sign a deal with Tehran unless it guarantees the release of US prisoners.
“Negotiations should not be held again with Iran, which has not released the Americans who were unjustly detained in that country,” a third official said.
CNN’s Nicole Gout contributed to the report.