GOP Demands Biden Iran Envoy Testify Before Congress

Robert Malley has not briefed Congress a single time since starting talks with Tehran

Robert Malley (Mazen Mahdi/AFP via Getty Images)
February 4, 2022

A group of Republican foreign policy leaders are demanding the Biden administration Iran envoy Robert Malley appear before Congress to testify about his efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, according to a copy of the request sent to the State Department on Friday and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Malley, who was appointed last year to spearhead negotiations with Iran, has not appeared before Congress since taking the job, though Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee have asked many times to be briefed on the matter. Malley faced pushback on Capitol Hill when he was first appointed to the job, with lawmakers citing his past anti-Israel writings and efforts in 2008 to negotiate with the terror group Hamas, which saw him fired from President Barack Obama’s campaign.

With the Biden administration expected to announce a deal with Iran in the coming weeks, Malley is under pressure to answer questions before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Malley "has yet to appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for a public hearing to update Congress on nuclear talks with the regime and other important topics, such as American hostages that remain held in Iran, the regime’s ongoing regional aggression, and its destabilizing missile program," wrote the nine GOP lawmakers, led by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.).

The request for this briefing comes amid reports that "the U.S. negotiating team under Malley’s leadership is in complete disarray," according to the lawmakers, who cite the recent firing of a State Department official who advocated a tougher line on Iran in the talks. It also is becoming increasingly clear that Iran’s demands for full-scale sanctions relief will be accommodated by Malley and his team.

"Mr. Malley is forcing out those who disagree with him. With the recent departure of the deputy special envoy for Iran, Richard Nephew, who was reportedly forced out for advocating a tougher posture against the regime, it is time for Mr. Malley to appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to answer important questions," the lawmakers wrote, adding that Trump administration's Iran envoy Brian Hook repeatedly briefed Congress during his tenure in the position.

Though the terms of a new deal with Iran have remained secret, many GOP leaders and outside experts expect the Biden administration to ink a deal that is weaker than the original accord. This would include billions of dollars in sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for minor restrictions on its nuclear program, which has grown significantly in just the past year. The State Department estimates that Iran is just weeks away from having enough nuclear materials to power an atomic bomb.

Tenney and her colleagues want answers to several key questions surrounding the negotiations, including: "Why are Department officials being forced off the negotiating team? What is the Administration’s current posture on sanctions relief to Iran? Why are key sanctions on Iran’s energy sector not being fully enforced? What is the status of Iran’s nuclear program and increasing uranium enrichment?"

The lawmakers are referring to the Biden administration’s decision to not enforce sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade, which has skyrocketed over the past year. They see the Biden administration as turning a blind eye to enforcement in order to generate good will with Iran.

"The administration’s enthusiasm for returning to the nuclear deal despite Iran’s escalation and intransigence is a massive miscalculation that is diminishing deterrence and weakening our leverage in negotiations," the lawmakers wrote.