Reuters reported that the new US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, spoke with European officials to revive the Iran nuclear deal, while the Israeli government disavowed statements, which were considered provocative, to one of its military leaders about the US administration’s intention to return to the agreement.
On Friday, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the US envoy to Iran spoke with officials from Britain, France and Germany on Thursday to discuss ways to revive the nuclear agreement signed with Iran in 2015, after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from it.
A European diplomatic source said that Mali is trying to know the file and assess what the Europeans are thinking, while the second source confirmed the conversation, but did not provide details.
Iran and 6 major world powers signed the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and obligates Tehran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions by the United States and other countries, but Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, which led Iran to violate the terms. The agreement included enriching greater quantities of uranium to levels of purity higher than what was stipulated in the agreement.
Washington confirmed on Friday that Robert Malley, a childhood friend of Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken and head of the International Crisis Group, had been named “special envoy for Iran.”
Mali worked as an advisor in the White House and was one of the main negotiators in the agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, which was concluded under former President Barack Obama.
On Friday, a US State Department official announced that Mali “lends to this position his previous successes in negotiations over restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program,” stressing that the foreign minister has confidence that Mali and his team will be able to reach this result again.
Even before it was officially named, the name of Robert Malle was welcomed by a number of experts and diplomats, but his choice, in a reflection of the deep division in the United States on this issue, angered the hawkish circles of the conservative right.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton wrote on January 21 in a tweet, “It is very outrageous that President Biden thinks in the name of Robert Malle to lead Iranian policy.”
The senator warned that “Mali is known for its sympathy with the Iranian regime and its hostility towards Israel,” considering that officials in Iran “will not believe the extent of their good fortune if he appointed” Mali.
Other figures vehemently opposed to the Iran nuclear deal have taken a similar stance as well.
The official Israeli Radio said that the statements of Chief of the Military Staff, Aviv Kochavi, regarding the US administration’s intention to return to the path of the nuclear agreement and prevent Iran from reaching the nuclear bomb, had not been coordinated in advance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Israel Radio reported that Kochavi’s statements were an attempt to send messages to Iran, the new US administration and the Israeli public opinion, that the Israeli army is ready to launch an attack that topples the Iranian nuclear project.
Israeli security and political parties had criticized Kochavi’s statements and considered them a provocation to the US administration and an insult to its president, as they saw it as an attempt by Netanyahu to obstruct Biden’s efforts to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran.
US President Joe Biden has said that if Tehran “returns to commitment” to the agreement, Washington will do the same, and then seek to reach a broader agreement that also covers Iran’s efforts to develop ballistic missiles and support proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
The Biden administration insists that Iran resume its commitments contained in the agreement, and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that one of the top and early priorities of the Biden administration is to deal with an escalating crisis with Iran, as it nears obtaining enough fissile material to possess a nuclear weapon.
Sullivan added to an online program sponsored by the US Institute of Peace, “From our point of view, one of the important early priorities should be dealing with what is considered an escalating nuclear crisis, as (Iran) gradually approaches the acquisition of sufficient fissile material to produce a (nuclear) weapon.”
Meanwhile, Tehran argues that Washington withdrew from the agreement and should return to it before asking Iran to do so.
Iran’s Foreign Minister – Muhammad Javad Zarif – said that the nuclear agreement was signed by his country and the “5 + 1” group, and ratified by the United Nations, and that no file can be added to the agreement that was not included in it.
On Friday, the office manager of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that the negotiation file on the nuclear agreement has been closed, stressing that his country’s position is clear and will not change, and that there is no difference in Tehran between former US President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan expressed his belief that the Biden administration will work to face the challenges in the region in a clear way, indicating that a dialogue will be held with the American side regarding those challenges, which are considered to include Iran’s activities and its nuclear program.