Former Obama aide Robert Malley named as Biden's special envoy for Iran: official

Former Obama aide Robert Malley named as Biden's special envoy for Iran: official
Robert Malley, who was one of the negotiators of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has been named as the top diplomat to Iran.
3 min read
29 January, 2021
Robert Malley has previously served in the Clinton and Obama administrations. [Getty]
President Joe Biden has picked longtime diplomat Robert Malley as his special envoy for Iran, who will be taking the lead in reigniting the Iran nuclear deal and building relations.

President Biden has stated that rejoining of the Iran nuclear deal is one of his key foreign policy aims.

Malley has plenty of experience in the field, having been a central member of the team that negotiated with Iran, along with European allies, to secure the original nuclear deal in 2015, which was later abandoned by former president Trump in 2018. 

"Secretary Blinken is building a dedicated team, drawing from clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views. Leading that team as our Special Envoy for Iran will be Rob Malley, who brings to the position a track record of success negotiating constraints on Iran’s nuclear program," a State Department official told Reuters.

The choice of Malley as the top diplomat to Iran has drawn the ire of some Republican lawmakers and pro-Israel groups, who considered him to be too soft on Iran and tough on Israel, but veterans of foreign policy defended his record as being balanced and highlighted the respect others have for him as a diplomat.

Lashing out on Twitter, Senator Tom Cotton said, "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. The ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected."

Others had kinder words about the diplomacy veteran.

"Rob Malley is an extraordinary diplomat, a brilliant strategist, and a profoundly decent human being. While his critics were supporting and enabling authoritarianism these last few years, Rob was fighting it and standing up for human rights around the world," said Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor under Obama.

Malley has a long diplomatic history in the Middle East, serving in senior roles related to the region for both the Clinton and Obama administrations. He served informally as an adviser for the Biden 2020 campaign team.

Read more: What will happen to US 'maximum pressure' on Iran after the election?

Of late, he has been the president of International Crisis Group, a think-tank focused on global conflict, a role which did get him into trouble, when it was revealed that he had met with representatives of the Palestinian group Hamas. 

When his start the job of special envoy, Malley will have his work cut out for him.

Since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed harsh sanctions on the country, relations between the two nations have steadily worsened. 

Anticipation for a new Iran nuclear deal is high, but both sides are so far remaining resolute in the positions. 

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated: "If Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same thing."

While Iran's foreign minister took to Twitter to insist that Iran will not take action regarding its nuclear activities, until sanctions are first lifted by the US.

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