Robert Malley held numerous senior positions in the Democratic administrations of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton with a focus on Middle East and Persian Gulf policy making.
U.S. officials say Joe Biden’s new administration will name veteran diplomat Robert Malley as its special envoy for Iran, as the president and his foreign-policy aides’ move to craft their approach to Tehran following years of worsening relations under former President Donald Trump.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will name Malley, a top national-security aide to former President Barack Obama, as the administration’s point person on Iran, a senior State Department official and several other people familiar with the matter said late on January 28.
A formal announcement is expected to be made on January 29.
Malley was a key member of Obama’s team that negotiated a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, an agreement that Trump abandoned in 2018, arguing that the 2015 accord did not go far enough.
The Trump administration also imposed crippling sanctions on Iran as part a “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at forcing Tehran to negotiate a new agreement that would also address the country’s missile programs and its support for regional proxies.
In response, Iran has gradually breached parts of the pact, saying it is no longer bound by it.
The State Department official said Malley would head “a dedicated team” of “clear-eyed experts with a diversity of views.”
Malley has “a track record of success negotiating constraints on Iran’s nuclear program” and Blinken is confident he “will be able to do that once again,” according to the official.
Earlier this week, Blinken said the Biden administration was willing to return to commitments under nuclear agreement if Iran returned to “full compliance.”
“Then we would use that as a platform to build, with our allies and partners, what we call a longer and stronger agreement and to deal with a number of other issues that are deeply problematic in the relationship with Iran,” Blinken said on January 27, adding, “But we are a long ways from that point.”
Iranian officials insist that the United States should make the first move by returning to the nuclear pact, which eased international sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
They also say the country’s missile program and regional policies are off the table.
Iran denies pursuing atomic weapons, saying its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.
After Malley’s name first surfaced in news reports as a leading candidate for the post, a number of foreign-policy veterans praised him as a respected, even-handed diplomat.
However, he has also drawn criticism from Iran hawks and pro-Israel groups that expressed concern that he would be soft on mainly Shi’ite Muslim Iran and may be willing to sacrifice the security of Israel and Sunni-ruled Arab states in the Persian Gulf to do so.
Malley is currently the president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization focused on global conflict.
He has held numerous senior positions in the Democratic administrations of Obama, in which Biden served as vice president, and Bill Clinton with a focus on Middle East and Persian Gulf policy making.
With reporting by Reuters and AP