Biden's Choice Of Iran Special Representative Sparks Opposition
The likely appointment of Robert (Rob) Malley as United States President Joe Biden’s Special Representative for Iran has excited opposition from Israeli and Iranian lobby groups, including a petition.
In a Twitter post on Friday, Republican Senator Tom Cotton – a strong supporter of outgoing president Donald Trump and opponent of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – claimed that Malley had “a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime & animus towards Israel.”
"It’s deeply troubling that President Biden would consider appointing Rob Malley to direct Iran policy," Cotton wrote. “The ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected.” In another tweet Cotton suggested that Malley's appointment would give “the lie to all of President Biden and [Biden’s nominee as Secretary of State] Tony Blinken’s rhetoric of unity.”
Malley is President and CEO of International Crisis Group (ICG) - a transnational, non-governmental think tank - and a former Obama official. Malley was particularly involved in the Camp David ‘peace process’ between Israel and the Palestinians and refused to attribute its failure solely to the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
According to Jewish Insider, in 2008 Malley was removed from President Barack Obama’s election campaign after reports he met leaders of Hamas but was later appointed Middle East director in Obama’s National Security Council.
Malley last year criticized the killing in November of Iran’s nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, widely attributed to Israel, suggesting it would make it more difficult for Trump’s successor to resume diplomacy with Iran. The assassination was also condemned by the European Union and by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.
The US-based National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), an Iranian-American lobby group, on January 20 started an online petition addressed to Blinken to stop Malley’s appointment as Iran special envoy.
"Both you and President Biden have stated that the Biden administration’s foreign policy would be strongly committed to human rights and democracy,” the petition said. “Mr. Malley’s appointment to this post would send just the opposite message to the regime in Iran and the pro-democracy movement.”
The NUFDI petition charged that Malley’s appointment would send “a chilling signal to the dictatorship in Iran” that the United States was solely focused on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, and "ignoring its regional terror and domestic crimes against humanity.”
Biden has expressed support for reviving the 2015 deal under which international sanctions against Iran were lifted and Iran accepted stringent limits on its nuclear program. Trump left the deal in 2018, and imposed sanctions, prompting Tehran to take a series of steps beyond the deal’s nuclear limits.
In July 2019 the Jewish Insider reported that a spokesman for the ICG had confirmed that Malley had met with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York during the Iranian diplomat’s visit to attend the annual session of the UN Economic and Social Council (UNOSOC). The ICG spokesman explained the meeting as part of ICG’s “regular contacts with all parties, whether it be Iran, the US, Gulf states or European countries.”
One former US diplomat who is Malley’s close friend welcomed his possible appointment. “If the reports of the appointment are accurate, it would be a smart move,” Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Jewish Insider in comments published January 20. “Nobody knows the issue, the [nuclear] agreement and the region better than Rob Malley.
"He understands the JCPOA’s strengths and limitations, and more important is very close to both Blinken and [Biden’s choice as National Security Advisor, Jake] Sullivan. It will be a tough go, dealing with Iran and the Israelis. But Malley’s smart and tough enough to handle both.”