Rob Malley, the US President Joe Biden’s special envoy to Iran, has been placed on unpaid leave while under investigation for alleged mishandling of classified documents. This development could potentially jeopardize efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal, according to CNN.
The investigation into Malley’s actions remains largely unknown, but it has resulted in his security clearance being suspended earlier this year. In May, his absence was noted when he missed a Senate briefing on Iran. At the time, the State Department cited personal leave due to a family illness as the reason for his absence.
However, an unnamed US official revealed to CNN that Malley’s security clearance had been revoked and he was being investigated for mishandling classified information. Subsequently, he was placed on unpaid leave on Thursday. Malley himself confirmed these reports to multiple US media outlets, stating that he was on leave but had not been provided with any further information regarding the investigation.
Rob Malley played a crucial role in the development of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. The deal involved Tehran agreeing to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for limited sanctions relief. Despite President Donald Trump withdrawing from the agreement in 2018, Malley was appointed as Biden’s special envoy to Iran in 2021. Since then, he has led back-channel negotiations aimed at restoring the agreement or reaching an alternate arrangement.
Opposition to a return to the 2015 deal has come from Israeli officials, who strongly oppose it. They have consistently accused Malley of being too lenient on Tehran, highlighting his willingness to meet with figures such as Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Amir Saeid Iravani, who has expressed support for the use of force in response to Israeli drone attacks.
Republican lawmakers in the US have also opposed a return to the deal, instead favoring tougher sanctions and military threats towards Iran. Following the news of Malley’s suspension, Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, requesting further information so that the committee could conduct oversight on Iran negotiations and policy. McCaul deemed Malley’s outreach to Tehran as “troubling.”
The suspension of Rob Malley as the special envoy to Iran raises concerns about the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the ongoing efforts to restore it. Without his expertise and involvement, it may be more challenging to make progress in negotiations with Tehran. The investigation into Malley’s alleged mishandling of classified documents adds further uncertainty to the situation. More information regarding the investigation and its findings would provide clarity and enable a better understanding of the potential impact on US-Iran relations and the future of the nuclear deal.