The US special envoy on Iran Rob Malley announced this Thursday that due to security clearance issues, he is on leave without pay and can no longer hold his position in the White House.
Rob Malley, the top American politician who served as US special envoy on Iran since 2021, announced this Thursday that he has been placed on leave without pay for what he described as “security clearance issues”.
“I have been informed that my security clearance is under review,” Malley said in a tweet, adding that “I have not been provided any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave.”
In a statement after the news, an official from the US State Department explained that Malley’s clearance was suspended amid a State Department diplomatic security investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information. Speaking under the condition of anonymity, the official also noted that the State Department investigation on Malley began last year in July, and since then, the 60-year-old politician remained on the job but was not allowed to access classified information.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller also reacted to the reports on Malley’s leave and said in a statement on Thursday that Malley was on leave but would not offer details as to why. “Abram Paley is serving as acting Special Envoy for Iran and leading the department’s work in this area,” Miller added.
This is not the first time that Robert Malley is leaving his office so surprisingly. Back in 2008, he also resigned as an adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign when it turned out that he’d met with members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas while working for the International Crisis Group, a completely opposite research organization.
Will Malley’s leave affect US-Iran nuclear optimism?
During recent weeks, several reports from in and out of the United States have been signaling the resumption of indirect talks between the US and Iran over the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Among all the US diplomats engaging in the talks with Iran, Malley had played a key role in role in negotiating the JCPOA under President Barack Obama. Also, after former US President Donald Trump decided to pull out from the agreement, also played a leading role in US efforts to revive the JCPOA, one of the thorniest foreign policy challenges facing the Biden administration.
In addition, the US top diplomat has had a prominent role in working to secure the release of Americans detained in Iran during recent months. Malley was also a favorite news face for the media early this year due to his efforts to engage with the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, but it is unclear if those engagements came before or after his clearance was suspended by the US State Department.
He was appointed as special envoy for Iran about a week after Joe Biden took office in 2021 and worked on the Iran portfolio during the Clinton and Obama administrations. Considering Malley’s pivotal role in dealing with negotiations with Ira over the revival of the JCPOA, it is therefore feared that his absence could further hinder Biden administration efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal.