A barrage of criticism was leveled at the new U.S. president, Joe Biden, after Jewish Insider broke the news that Robert Malley, a former Obama administration official known for his moderate views on Iran, is being considered by the Biden administrations for a position in the Biden administration as special envoy on Iran.
Malley, who served as special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East [West Asia], North Africa and the Persian Gulf region in the Obama administration, has castigated former U.S. President Donald Trump for his Iran policy while advocating for a more balanced approach toward Iran. He reportedly met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in 2019 while the chief Iranian diplomat was in New York attending meetings at the United Nations. He criticized Israel’s decision to assassinate top Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November, saying the attack would “make it all the more difficult for [Trump’s] successor to resume diplomacy with Iran,” according to Jewish Insider.
Moreover, Malley is President and CEO of International Crisis Group (ICG), an international think tank known for its advocacy for de-escalation between Iran and the U.S.
Malley’s track record of moderate views on Iran drove Washington hawks crazy. They joined forces to dissuade the Biden administration from hiring Malley, believing that the former Obama official would undo four years of Trump unrelenting efforts to squeeze Iran “until the pips squeak.”
“It’s deeply troubling that President Biden would consider appointing Rob Malley to direct Iran policy. Malley has a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime & animus towards Israel,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton said in a tweet on January 22, adding that Iranian authorities wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected.
Cotton, a staunch Trump supporter harboring a deep grudge against Iran, also called a radical whose appointment would contradict Biden’s rhetoric of unity.
“Appointing radicals like Malley gives the lie to all of President Biden and Tony Blinken’s rhetoric of unity,” the senator continued.
Eli Lake, a Bloomberg columnist with hardline views on Iran, also railed against Malley in a recent opinion piece for Bloomberg.
“President Joe Biden has done a good job so far of calming the anxieties of allies that the U.S. will rush into negotiations to re-enter the flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Appointing Robert Malley as special envoy to Iran could change that,” the columnist wrote.
The U.S. hawks also wrote a letter to Tony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, calling on him not to appoint Rob Malley as U.S. special envoy for Iran.
The possible appointment of Malley also concerned Israel, though he is a Jew. Israeli daily newspaper Walla reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was concerned with some of Biden’s picks for top-level positions, which include Robert Malley, Wendy Sherman, Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, his nominee for CIA director, and his national security advisor Jake Sullivan.
Most of those officials have served under Obama in various top-level positions, with some of them even developing friendships with their Iranian counterparts. But none of them are pro-Iran. Critics often ignore the fact that none of Biden’s officials will be tasked with policymaking on their own. In fact, the U.S. policies on Iran will be crafted in a collective process with the participation of all relevant government agencies.
Besides, Malley was one of the officials of the Obama administration who played a role in U.S. policies toward the West Asia region and that he is not an unknown quantity.
Those who criticize Biden’s picks for top jobs ignore another fact: some of these figures played a pivotal role in what some U.S. officials called “a non-proliferation achievement,” which is the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The nuclear deal has been a major privilege for the U.S. while Iran did not benefit from this deal. In fact, the deal was so much in the U.S. interest that the Biden administration seems to be intent on reviving it.
Critics of Malley has falsely claimed that he has close ties to Iran and its allies in the region and that appointing Malley will put American families at risk and endanger Israel. But they failed to show how Malley’s appointment would put American families at risk. They also claimed that Iran news media welcomed the appointment of Malley. This is not right. Because Iran basically opposes the idea for the U.S. to have an “Iran envoy.”