Administration Mum, Even to Congress, on Fate of Biden’s Point Man on Iran

‘The state department has a communication problem,’ an analyst tells the Sun. ‘They can’t announce that the nuclear deal is dead. They can’t announce there is a deal. And they can’t provide anything on Malley.’

AP/Florian Schroetter, file
Robert Malley on June 20, 2021, at Vienna. AP/Florian Schroetter, file

Like the Communists at Beijing, who are purging the memory of Foreign Minister Qin Gang and refusing to answer questions on his fate, the Biden administration is being strictly mum regarding anything to do with its deposed Iran point man, Robert Malley. 

After weeks of asking the Department of  State for answers, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee finally met officials in a classified hearing Friday. Yet, the briefers apparently shed no light on Mr. Malley’s mysterious removal from his post, the stripping of his security clearance, or the purging of his official Twitter account. 

Emerging from the briefing, the committee chairman, Representative Mike McCaul, told a Jewish Insider reporter, “We don’t really have any details,” because “it’s an ongoing investigation.” He added that the administration is unlikely to provide any more details before the investigation concludes. No date for that conclusion is available.  

“The state department has a communication problem,” the policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, Jason Brodsky, tells the Sun. “They can’t announce that the nuclear deal is dead. They can’t announce there is a deal. And they can’t provide anything on Malley. Their dodge, duck, and weave act is awkward.”

The administration, though, seems to believe its strategy — providing no information on the top official who has steered America’s Iran policy since Mr. Biden entered office — is working. At the Friday briefing, officials declined to even confirm that the FBI is probing Mr. Malley, which has been reported by multiple news outlets. 

Yet, it is far from clear that the public will soon lose interest in Mr. Malley, “because more reporting is bound to come out,” Mr. Brodsky says. Mr. Malley has been the subject of Washington gossip and fodder for American and other news outlets and social media sites.   

While much of the national press is reluctant to look into the affair in the same manner it would had the same circumstances occurred during the Trump administration, details nevertheless have been coming out. As the Sun reported last week, one major source of news on the Malley affair has been, surprisingly, a mouthpiece for the Iranian regime, the Tehran Times. 

“Western and Middle East diplomats who talked to Semafor this week say the Tehran Times exclusives point to two things, neither of which are good: the outlet really has penetrated the U.S. government, or it’s proving adept at information warfare,” the website’s reporter, Jay Solomon, writes this week. Two of the Iranian English-language paper’s scoops “track with information sources have outlined to me,” Mr. Solomon adds. 

One of those scoops was the exact date, April 21, on which Mr. Malley was suspended from his post. Another claimed that the reason his security clearance was removed was for leaking classified information to a network of Iranian-Americans widely reported to maintain ties with Tehran officials. A third scoop. from Sunday, includes an audio recording of Mr. Malley. 

If officials in Washington knew of such details, they did not leak them to a favorite reporter, which raises suspicions that someone in the know — a state department official, Mr. Malley himself, an ally he might have shared secrets with — is leaking to Tehran, preferring the mullahs’ spin to that of critics who might seize on the story to prove that Mr. Biden is too soft on the Islamic Republic.      

Selectively producing a recording of a Malley speech, the Tehran Times argued on Sunday that it shows the envoy to be an Iran hawk who was “pursuing the same Iran policy as the Trump administration.” Yet close scrutiny could tell the exact opposite: In the recording Mr. Malley says that renewing the 2015 Iran deal is merely a first step in a strategy. After that, “we intend to use various tools to keep the pressure on Iran for its other forms of behavior, whether it’s support for proxy groups, support for terrorist groups, their ballistic missiles program, their cyberattacks, their election interference, their human rights violations,” he says. 

“So, we are maintaining our ability to put pressure, sanctions and otherwise on those issues,” Mr. Malley says. The Tehran Times claims this proves that Mr. Malley’s diplomacy is meant merely to build up pressure on the regime. Yet, American critics have long maintained that such statements amount to a soft sell and are designed to justify the return to a deal that is falling out of favor among an increasing number of Americans.

Mr. Malley was no junior bureaucrat. He was driving America’s Iran policy, answering directly to the secretary of state. That man, Secretary Blinken, needs to soon brief Congress in an open session, as so far details have come mostly from sources whose top goal is promoting the interests of an adversarial regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The New York Sun

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