U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley is currently on leave as his security clearance is being reviewed, according to multiple reports. Malley revealed that he had been informed about the review but was not provided with any further details. He expressed optimism that the investigation would be resolved in his favor and concluded soon. Meanwhile, Abram Paley is serving as the acting Special Envoy for Iran.
The reason behind Malley’s security clearance review appears to be allegations of mishandling classified information, which led to his suspension from accessing such material earlier this year. Despite this setback, Malley had been tasked with the responsibility of getting the United States back into the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Although the talks were suspended indefinitely last year, recent reports suggest that discussions between the United States and Iran have resumed with the assistance of a third party.
The United States withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran as part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, expressed concern over Malley’s situation but emphasized the importance of waiting for all the facts to emerge before forming an opinion. He called for Congress to engage in robust oversight of the Biden administration’s Iran policy, highlighting the lack of Iran-focused oversight hearings held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee since 2020.
In response to Malley’s leave, Representative Michael McCaul, the committee’s chairman, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking answers about the situation. McCaul raised serious concerns about Malley’s conduct and questioned whether the State Department misled Congress and the public. Additionally, he mentioned the Biden administration’s indirect talks with the Iranian regime in May 2023 and stressed the need for transparency and accountability in Iran negotiations and policy.
McCaul also mentioned that the House Foreign Affairs Committee had been seeking Malley’s testimony since April 11. The committee was informed that Malley was on personal leave due to the illness of a close family member, but the suspension or review of his security clearance or any potential misconduct investigation was not disclosed. McCaul requested Blinken to provide answers, documentation, and relevant communications regarding Malley’s security clearance issue by July 11.
Despite Malley’s absence, experts believe that U.S. policy on Iran will remain unchanged. The White House has been overseeing the negotiations in recent months, and Brodsky stated that the impact on policy would depend on the outcome of the investigation. However, this development could further complicate the politics surrounding diplomacy with Iran.
In conclusion, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley is currently on leave as his security clearance undergoes a review due to allegations of mishandling classified information. While the investigation is ongoing, Abram Paley is serving as the acting Special Envoy. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has expressed concerns and requested answers from the State Department regarding Malley’s situation. Despite his absence, the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear deal are continuing under the guidance of the White House. The outcome of the investigation will determine the potential impact on U.S. policy towards Iran.