Many questions have arisen about the recent disclosure that our US Special Envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, has had his security clearances revoked and has been placed on administrative leave. We do not know why, or the nature of the classified information that Mr. Malley allegedly passed along to the Iranians, nor might we ever really know. Mr. Malley might have met an Iranian official, or someone directly or indirectly connected to the regime at a bar or restaurant, written a note and passed it along. These are things so discreet that they might forever be held under lock and key, and might not ever come up in a congressional hearing.
We do however know certain things:
We know that on March 17, 2015, shortly after the JCPOA was concluded, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) in a vote of 400 to 24 in the House and 98 to 1 in the Senate. This act of federal law specifically mandates that the Executive Branch should keep Congress clearly informed of any initiative or negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear program, including any new or amended agreement.
INARA also specifies that Congress needs to be informed about Iranian compliance with the JCPOA. We all know by now, that the Islamic Republic has been woefully out of compliance with the JCPOA. This agreement specifically forbids the export of drones, and they have been selling their drones to Russia for use in their brutal war against Ukraine. We also know that the JCPOA had capped uranium enrichment at 3.67 percent. In February, reports came out that particles have been found by the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) at Fordow of highly enriched uranium at 83.7 percent, which is simply a matter of a few days-or even hours away from the 90 percent necessary for a nuclear bomb.
We also now know, confirmed by Iranian Foreign Minister Nasser Kanaani, that secret talks have been held between the US and Iran in Oman.
The details that have been leaked out of this “mini deal” would upend the currently allowed threshold of highly enriched uranium from the 3.67 caps to a whopping 60 percent, which is just a matter of days or at most a week or two from one, or several, lethal bombs.
We also know that $2.76 billion of frozen assets has just been released from Iraq to Iran, to pay back a debt of Iranian gas and electric bills, and that Seoul, upon a US request. will be releasing approximately 7 billion dollars in Iranian frozen funds.
Does anyone assume that this money will not make its hands into any number of the Iranian proxy terrorist groups around the globe? What exactly did Malley offer? How much was the White House behind these offers, or did Mr. Malley act on his own?
These verbal arrangements are agreements. And like all agreements, whether they be written or oral, depend on a matter of trust. Trust in the Iranian regime is something that the Iranian people, themselves, have grown to completely lack. How could one trust the regime when they have arrested over 20,000 protestors in the past year, murdered 500 demonstrators on the spot, and executed by hanging 354 people in the first six months of 2023? It appears that suddenly the level of “acceptable” highly enriched uranium would give the Iranians the ultimate leverage to blackmail the rest of the world. They would now have the power to unleash their terrorist proxies and commit acts of war against people around the globe including kidnapping their own Iranian expatriates, such as the Iranian-American blogger, Masih Alinejad, or others with whom the regime disagrees, such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, or former National Security Advisor, John Bolton. There will always be the veiled threat that they can simply turn up the spigot and go to 90 percent enrichment.
We also know that according to INARA, any agreement, be it written or oral, with Iran, needs congressional oversite. We need a full and open, public congressional debate.
Aside from the details of what sort of national security interests might have been clandestinely given away by our former envoy to Iran, what is of even greater concern, however, is why the administration has been covering up for Mr. Malley. It appears that Mr, Malley has been on leave now for several weeks. When he was called for congressional hearings several weeks ago, the administration concealed the fact that his security clearances had been revoked, saying there was an illness of a close family member.
The real question remains: Why all the secrecy on the part of the Biden administration? Why did they feel it was important to deceive Congress and whitewash the fact that Mr. Malley had his security clearances revoked? Why was there a cover up and exactly who are they trying to protect?
Let’s hope it is not the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its lethal and hegemonic ambitions.
Sarah Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a Washington-based think tank and policy institute specializing in the Middle East.
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