Robert Malley’s policies toward Iran

Hazem Saghieh

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It is highly fortunate for all parties involved that Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, does not have the final say in the Biden administration regarding Iran's US policy, and he is merely one among many officials representing the Biden administration.

Three days ago, in an interview with the Voice of America, Malley reiterated that Iran-backed militants’ recent rocket strikes on US forces in Iraq are making it tougher for the Biden administration to build domestic support for its new diplomatic initiative to resolve US-Iran tensions.

It is known that US troops and bases in Iraq have come under rocket attack several times in the past few weeks, causing multiple American casualties, including the death of an American civilian.

The second statement Malley made in this regard was during a separate interview with BBC Persian, he suggested that if Iran does not want to enter into direct talks with the US, the two sides could negotiate through a third party.

It can be said that Malley’s statement to the Voice of America is him stating the case, meanwhile, his statement to the BBC is the practical solution to the issue. If we set aside the details and read between the lines, Special Envoy for Iran, Robert Malley means to send Iran the following message, instead of bombing and insulting us, it would be more fruitful to settle matters at the negotiations table, and if you do not wish to enter into direct talks, we could negotiate through a third party. Malley has strongly emphasized the administration’s desire for talks with Iran.

However, as Malley was groveling to Iran, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was openly blaming all of the woes that have befallen Lebanon on the “Great Satan” as he labels the US.

As for the Iranian regime’s leaders, they have been successively leveling threats at the US, starting with the Commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), General Ismail Qaani, who said “We have made it clear that we will break the bones of the criminal US. The sound of them being fractured will be heard at the proper time” … “You no longer have peace in your own houses and it's not unlikely that we take revenge in your house.”

The language US envoy Malley used to respond to Iran’s hostile statements suggests that he was either driven by animosity towards his own country the US, or by his hatred for himself as an American, or both. There are no other ways to explain his defeatist approach. It is safe to say that this language seems to be prevalent among left-wing populist parties, in the United States, and in the West in general. This approach is the polar opposite of that previously associated with the “neoconservative” political movement so closely identified with the George W. Bush administration. Neoconservatism arose in the United States promoting ideas that saw America as the victim of the world, and it was especially influenced by the totalitarian threat posed by the Soviet Union to Western democracies. As for Robert Malley, and others like him, they claim that the world is a victim of America, and their belief is particularly influenced by certain Middle Eastern crises, and in particular the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

The only thing Robert Malley and neoconservatives have in common is their shortsighted naivete. Both sides have reduced an extremely complicated situation to an oversimplified oppressor versus oppressed conflict. They have completely dismissed many complex variables and justified the actions taken by labeling one side the victim and the other the aggressor.

In the context of talking about Iran, the first thing that comes to mind is the apology the US issued for its role in the 1953 coup, when it orchestrated to oust Iran's democratically elected prime minister, Muhammad Mossadegh, and instead directed its support for General Fazlollah Zahedi. However, the fact remains that Iran, under Khomeini's lead, responded by taking hostages at the US embassy in Tehran shortly after the 1979 revolution. In my opinion, both actions can be considered a crime of the same magnitude in terms of their impact on relations between the West and the Islamic world, as well as international relations and diplomacy, not to mention their role in facilitating this shift towards authoritarian politics in Iran.

There are, at least, three reasons that should assuage Malley’s guilt as an American towards the Khomeini regime. If he is under the impression that he is repaying America’s debt to Iran for supporting the coup against Mosaddegh, he must realize that Iran's current regime is the one that deported, exiled, or imprisoned Mosaddegh’s followers (Mehdi Bazargan, Karim Sanjabi, Ebrahim Yazdi) or even assassinated them in their exile such as the case of Shapour Bakhtiar.

As for some of the US’s policies that may be considered appalling by Malley and many others, it is worth noting that many other countries have committed the same actions or adopted similar policies without arousing much controversy. In other words, the Soviet Union and communist China were not busy writing symphonies and contemplating the stars during the Cold War. They were committing, the same, if not even more horrendous acts than those of the United States.

Last but not least, it is important to emphasize that Malley’s sympathy for Iran is considered sympathy towards an aggressively expansionist despotic and theological regime, that seeks to achieve its goals at the expense of the people of the region and the sovereignty of their states. Such sympathy makes left-wing populists an accomplice to the crime of impoverishment, murder, and planting the seeds of discord that threaten both national and regional security.

Iran does not deserve Malley’s sympathy. Malley, however, might need Iran's sympathy.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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