Former Iranian Hostage Slams Biden’s Iran Envoy Pick

Former hostage: Robert Malley and Ben Rhodes dismiss 'concerns of former political prisoners and U.S. hostages'

Rob Malley
Rob Malley (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
January 24, 2021

A Chinese-American academic who was wrongly imprisoned in Iran for more than three years said the Biden administration’s likely nominee to serve as the next Iran envoy "played no positive role" in securing his release.

Xiyue Wang, who spent more than three years in an Iranian prison before being freed by the Trump administration in 2019, raised numerous concerns about reports that President Joe Biden is set to tap Robert Malley as his new envoy to Iran. Malley, a veteran foreign policy hand, was fired from former president Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign after it was revealed he held unauthorized talks with Hamas, the Iranian-backed terror group that has murdered Americans. Malley was hired by the Obama White House in 2014 and is now being considered as the new administration’s top Iran envoy, which would put him in charge of conducting diplomacy with Tehran.

Malley’s possible appointment in the new administration has drawn widespread criticism from Republican hawks in Congress but has been praised by former Obama administration officials, such as Ben Rhodes, the onetime White House National Security Council member who helmed the Obama administration’s self-described pro-Iran "echo chamber," which was used to push the Iran nuclear deal. Rhodes, on Twitter this week, dismissed concerns about Malley’s appointment, saying that prominent Iran hardliners like Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and others should not have a say in the matter.

Wang, in response to Rhodes, accused him and other Malley allies of "dismissing the concerns of former political prisoners and U.S. hostages," calling it "unprofessional and offensive."

"As my own story illustrates, not everything is about partisan D.C. politics," he said.

Wang claimed that Malley did nothing to secure his release when he was abducted by the Iranians in 2016, a year after the Obama administration inked the landmark nuclear accord, which provided Tehran with sanctions relief and billions in cash windfalls.

"During my imprisonment Mr. Malley was a senior White House official," Wang wrote. "He played no positive role in facilitating my release, a view shared by present and past hostages and their families. If he is appointed, it’d suggest releasing U.S. hostages from Iran won’t be a priority."

Wang said he has a unique understanding of the hardline regime in Iran: "I’ve likely had more intensive contact with Iranian hardliners than most Iran watchers in the U.S., especially U.S. government officials like Mr. Rhodes and Malley."

Note: This post was originally published on Jan. 23 at 7:35 p.m.