Lawmakers Press for Iran Envoy To Be Axed, Nuclear Negotiations Halted

Rob Malley (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
November 8, 2022

The Biden administration is facing congressional pressure to fire U.S. special envoy for Iran Robert Malley and suspend nuclear negotiations with the hardline regime in the wake of a growing protest movement that threatens to topple the Islamic Republic.

Rep. Pat Fallon (R., Texas), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued these demands in a letter sent Tuesday to the White House and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

"The leadership in Iran," Fallon wrote, "is beyond reform and deserves nothing from the civilized world. The United States must lead through action, not empty rhetoric." President Joe Biden must "remove Rob Malley as U.S. special envoy for Iran and permanently halt negotiations on a revival of the [Iran nuclear deal] or a lesser than agreement."

Fallon is one of the first lawmakers to call for Malley's resignation in the wake of a protest movement that has swept across Iran and led to a deadly crackdown by the country's theocratic government. The Biden administration has faced criticism from Iranian dissident groups for its muted response to what could be a burgeoning revolution in Iran after more than 40 years of oppressive rule. While the administration has condemned the Iranian government's human rights crimes and issued some new economic sanctions, it has stopped short of expressing support for the protesters' calls to oust Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Malley is seen as the administration's most prominent supporter of the Iranian government, given his ongoing attempts to revive the 2015 nuclear accord and solidify the regime's grip on power.

"Enough is enough," Fallon wrote in his letter to Biden. The United States must immediately get serious about helping Iranian protesters realize their goals of removing the regime from power, he said.

In addition to firing Malley, the Biden administration must rally U.S. allies to isolate the Iranian government by cutting off trade and all diplomatic relations, Fallon said.

The United States should also initiate efforts at the United Nations to reimpose all international sanctions that were lifted as part of the original 2015 nuclear deal, Fallon wrote. This option, known as "snapback," is a dispute resolution mechanism written into the original agreement that allows any U.N. member nation to trigger the reimposition of sanctions if Iran is found to be in violation of the deal. The Biden administration has refrained from exercising this right to avoid upsetting the Iranian government amid its diplomatic efforts.

Fallon also directs the Biden administration to begin enforcing a cadre of sanctions that were "loosened because of the negotiations" with Tehran. These include executive orders issued by the Trump administration that sanction Iran's banking institutions, oil trade, precious metals sector, and other industries controlled by Khamenei and his allies.

Iranian officials tied to the regime's human rights abuses—which include the imprisonment of more than 14,000 protesters and the murder of others—should be barred from entering the United States as part of renewed efforts to isolate the regime, Fallon says in his letter.

The United States should also undertake efforts to thwart Iranian terror operations across the Middle East and provide allies with the resources they need to crack down on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is funding and orchestrating terror attacks across the region, according to Fallon.

The Biden administration must also increase its efforts to provide the Iranian people with internet access, a primary tool used to keep the protest movements alive and coordinate anti-regime activities. Since the protests broke out last month, the Iranian regime has attempted to disrupt these networks and plunge Iranian dissidents into darkness.

"This policy of appeasement must end," Fallon told the Free Beacon. "That starts with the removal of Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, permanently halting nuclear negotiations with this thuggish regime, and by substantively supporting courageous Iranian protesters."

Malley's position in the administration has become more tenuous since the protests erupted and negotiations over a revamped nuclear deal hit a stalemate. Malley and the State Department have declined in recent weeks to state that Iranian protesters are calling for regime change, eliciting outcry from Iranian-American groups and others that say they have lost faith in Malley's ability to support the protest movement.

"Robert Malley will go down in the history books as the most ineffective and feckless State Department official of the last 50 years. It's time for him to go," Bryan Leib, executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, a grassroots group that supports democracy, told the Free Beacon last month.
Bryan Leib, executive director of Iranian Americans for Liberty, a grassroots group that supports democracy, who has led efforts to force Malley's ouster, told the Free Beacon that more lawmakers should be speaking out on the issue.

"Robert Malley has done nothing during the last 20 months to prove he is competent enough to be in this role—he should be taking orders at McDonalds—not leading negotiations between our country and the world's leading sponsor of terrorist groups," Leib said. "It's time for Malley to go."

Fallon says that ongoing efforts to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, are yet another sign the Biden administration is not serious about backing Iran's citizenry in its quest for freedom.

"A revival of the 2015 JCPOA or a lesser than agreement would reward Tehran with billions, if not trillions, of dollars," he said. "Every dollar of sanctions relief that Tehran receives will facilitate the proliferation of their weapons systems, military expertise, and narcotics throughout the Middle East, Latin America, and Eastern Europe."