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US Congress demands more information on probe into Malley’s suspension

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley

The chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs has called on the State Department to provide more information about a decision to place US special envoy on Iran Robert Malley on leave amid an investigation into his handling of classified documents.

“These reports raise serious concerns both regarding Malley’s conduct and whether the State Department misled Congress and the American public,” Michael McCaul wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

McCaul called Malley’s security clearance suspension “troubling” and blasted the State Department for stonewalling the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s past “efforts to conduct oversight.”

“While the suspension of special envoy Malley’s clearance is independently troubling, our concern is compounded by the State Department’s failure to respond to the committee’s efforts to conduct oversight of its negotiations with and policy toward Iran. Since April 11, 2023, the committee has repeatedly requested [Malley’s] testimony, which the department has not fulfilled, despite [his] numerous press engagements dating back to May 30, 2023,” McCaul said. 

The Texas Republican further asserted that “at no point did the department indicate that Malley’s security clearance was suspended or under review, or that he was being investigated for potential misconduct” when the department rebuffed efforts to get him to testify. 

“The department’s failure to inform Congress of this matter demonstrates at best a lack of candor, and at worst represents deliberate and potentially unlawful misinformation,” McCaul wrote to Blinken. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman then demanded the State Department provide his panel with a “full” and “transparent” accounting of the circumstances surrounding Malley’s clearance suspension and investigation by July 11. 

Malley announced earlier that his security clearance was under review, but hoped that the investigation would be resolved “favorably and soon”. “In the meantime, I am on leave,” he said.

A US official familiar with the matter also said Malley was placed on unpaid leave on Thursday afternoon. Another source said that his security clearance was suspended amid a State Department diplomatic security investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information.

The US official told CNN that Malley remained on the job for a period of time following the State Department investigation, but was not allowed to access classified information.

Two sources familiar with the matter also confirmed that the State Department investigation identified an issue with Malley’s security clearance.

Earlier, State Department spokesman Matt Miller said Malley was on leave but did not say why or for how long. He added that Abram Paley was filling in on an acting basis.

Appointed soon after US President Joe Biden took office in 2021, Malley had the task of trying to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after former president Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to abandon the pact and re-impose US sanctions on Tehran.

He was a member of the US team negotiating the JCPOA with Iran under former US president, Barack Obama.

Iran showed to the world the peaceful nature of its nuclear program by signing the JCPOA with six world states — namely the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China.

However, former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the UN-endorsed agreement in May 2018 and imposed what he called “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran.

Multilateral diplomatic efforts to revive the JCPOA have been stalled since last August, with Iran blaming the United States for failing to guarantee that it will not leave the deal again.

Iran has repeatedly announced that the JCPOA revival is possible if the US and the European signatories to the agreement have the will to reach that aim, warning that the opportunity will not last forever.

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