Biden taps veteran Obama official as US envoy to Iran
President Biden has appointed Robert Malley, a Middle East expert and former Obama administration official, as its special envoy for Iran, a State Department official confirmed to The Hill.
Malley will lead the Biden administration’s team in negotiations with Iran in an effort to bring it back into compliance with the internationally negotiated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Obama-era deal that aimed to limit Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. Former President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.
The State Department official said Malley, who was the lead negotiator for the deal in 2015, “brings to the position a track record of success negotiating constraints on Iran’s nuclear program” and will lead a team of “clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views” appointed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
His appointment comes as Iranian officials are pushing for Biden to lift sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in an effort to salvage the JCPOA, warning that their parliament has set a Feb. 21 deadline for sanctions relief or they would further breach terms of the agreement over uranium enrichment and blocking access for international observers.
Biden has said that the U.S. would return to the JCPOA only after Iran reverses course and comes back into compliance with the deal.
Blinken has said that he views Iran’s ability to return to the deal would take time and that once both parties are back in, the U.S. will use that as a starting point for negotiations to address other aspects of the relationship such as Iran’s ballistic missile programs and funding for terrorism and proxy-fighting forces in the Middle East, among other things.
“But we are a long ways from that point as Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts and there are many steps in the process that we will need to evaluate,” the State Department official said. “We will coordinate closely with our allies and partners, as well as with Congress.”
Malley most recently served as president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, an independent research organization that raises the alarm on imminent violent conflict or outbreak of war around the world.