By Emma Putnam
President Joe Biden appointed Robert Malley to serve as the U.S. Special Envoy to Iran, a decision that has received backlash due to his preferences of diplomatic policy over militaristic action.
Prior to his appointments in previous administrations, he served as the Middle Eastern and North African Program Director for the Crisis Group, an independent non-profit think tank that works towards preventing and resolving deadly conflict. Malley was later appointed to serve in the Clinton administration for two terms as the Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs and as a member of the National Security Council, then joined the Obama administration from 2014-2017. Under President Obama, Malley served as Special Assistant to the President, Senior Advisor to the President for the Counter-ISIL campaign, and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and Gulf Region in 2015-2016.
Following his time with the Obama administration, he rejoined the International Crisis Group as the President and CEO. His career has centered around the Middle East, North Africa, and Southern Asia. During the 2020 Presidential primaries, Malley backed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and served as an advisor to the campaign until Sanders exited the race.
Malley has faced criticism from conservative news outlets and lawmakers who claim that he was not tough enough on Iran while being overly aggressive towards Israel during his tenure as a diplomatic official. He mainly offered conflict resolution strategies pertaining to Iran’s military threats and following in accordance with Obama’s 2015 nuclear accord. Supporters assert that he will tread with caution and confidence towards stopping Iran’s power grab. Biden said he hopes that Malley will implement his talents and experience in foreign policy by addressing threats by Iran regarding military and missile power.
The United States is currently in a series of negotiations with Iran after former President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran that was negotiated by President Obama. Malley said that sanctions have “devastated Iran’s economy” but are not successfully punishing Iran for violating their agreed limits on nuclear power.