Is President Biden’s Iran Envoy Misunderstood – or a Mole?
Something strange is happening inside the Biden administration which may amount to a major spy scandal
In the insular world of Middle Eastern affairs in Washington, DC, there are few more polarizing figures than Rob Malley. Always controversial, he has nevertheless ridden the inside track of the Democratic foreign policy elite in Washington for three decades, serving three presidents – Clinton, Obama, and Biden – as a Middle Eastern dragoman of sorts.
Malley possesses customary credentials for the liberal smart set: Yale undergraduate, Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, then Harvard Law. Between bouncing among top NGOs (including as the CEO of the International Crisis Group), Malley made his mark as a senior government bureaucrat. He served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, including as deputy to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger (subsequently of classified 9/11 pants-stuffing infamy), then returned as the Mid-East majordomo on President Barack Obama’s NSC.
It was on Obama’s NSC that Malley became a top-tier Beltway player, culminating in his pivotal role as the point person for the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, popularly known as the Iran Deal. JCPOA was the feather in Obama’s foreign policy cap and there Malley’s part loomed large. Along the way, Malley became a lightning rod for criticism, mainly but not exclusively from the Right, for his unusual sympathy for Arab-Muslim views broadly and Palestinian ones particularly.
It's difficult to tar Malley, who is himself Jewish, as any sort of anti-Semite, though he clearly lacks sympathy for the Israeli right-wing which has governed that country in recent years. Malley’s progressive credentials run deep, stemming from his father, a Cairene Jew and prominent left-wing journalist and supporter of the customary range of Cold War “anti-imperialist” causes. Two years after his father’s 2006 death, Malley hailed him for his activism, pronouncing that the old man was “not a Marxist,” though it might have been difficult to tell since he spent so much time with Palestinian revolutionaries including Yasser Arafat. The elder Malley may not have been a Communist, strictly speaking, but he was unquestionably a “fellow traveler” in ideological terms.
Some of this evidently rubbed off on the son, since Rob Malley has always approached the Israel-Palestinian dispute in an even-handed manner that’s sure to raise ire on the Potomac, while his advocacy of negotiations with terrorist groups like Hamas placed him beyond the pale in the usual Washington circles. All the same, this in no way harmed his career.
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