Do Not Appoint Rob Malley to Iran Special Envoy

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January 20, 2021

Dear Mr. Blinken,

As you assume the leadership of the State Department, we write as a group of human rights activists and proponents of liberal democracy in Iran to express our profound concern that Mr. Robert Malley is reportedly under consideration as the administration's special envoy on Iran.

Both you and President Biden have stated that the Biden administration’s foreign policy would be strongly committed to human rights and democracy. Mr. Malley’s appointment to this post would send just the opposite message to the regime in Iran and the pro-democracy movement. During his tenure in the Obama administration, Mr. Malley did not engage Iranian human rights activists nor did he seem at all interested in pursuing a dialogue or consultation. Instead, he focused on consulting former officials of the Islamic Republic, including its former Ambassador to Germany who was expelled from that country after authorities implicated him in the brutal assassination of four dissidents in 1992

Mr. Malley’s record outside of government concerns us further. As head of the International Crisis Group, he has singularly focused on cultivating close relationships with Iranian government officials and even hosting roundtable discussions with Iran’s Foreign Minister. None of this outreach to Iranian government officials has been complimented with outreach to Iranian civil society. On the contrary, members of his staff have openly mocked the murder of environmental activists in Iran and belittled the Iranian women’s rights movements. 

This track record goes counter to an administration that has pledged to promote human rights and democracy. Indeed, Mr. Malley’s appointment would send a chilling signal to the dictatorship in Iran that the United States is solely focused on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, and ignoring its regional terror and domestic crimes against humanity. It would also send a signal to Iranians, Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese, and all others that are being repressed by the Iranian regime and its proxies that the Biden administration does not care about their human rights.

At a time when the people of Iran are looking to the United States for moral leadership and solidarity as seen in their nationwide uprisings in 2017 and 2019, this appointment would send a strong message that America does not stand by them and their noble aspirations.

We strongly urge you not to appoint Mr. Malley to the position of special envoy on Iran. We further request that in keeping with your commitment to human rights, you engage the Iranian and Iranian-American human rights community in your selection of State Department Iran staffers.