Because of Robert Malley’s credibility, the State Department won’t say what mass protests mean
Adam Kredo • October 25, 2022 4:30 pm
The Biden administration’s Iran envoy Robert Malley is under increasing pressure to resign, as members of Congress and Iranian-American advocacy groups lose faith in his ability to support a growing protest movement in the Islamic Republic that is threatening to topple the hardline regime. .
The protests, which first erupted after the regime’s morality police murdered a young woman who did not wear her head covering properly, quickly turned into a referendum on the Iranian regime itself. But Malley, who was the administration’s public diplomatic face with Tehran, being claimed the protesters are only demonstrating that “their government respects their dignity and their human rights”—even in light of the evidence they are protesting to end the oppressive regime.
The Biden administration is still waiving economic sanctions on the Iranian regime as it seeks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, although prospects for reaching a deal are growing slimmer. These efforts have also forced the administration to make a diplomatic dash as it offers quick support to protesters to avoid isolating the hard-line government from negotiations. After Malley’s online gaffe, the State Department declined to respond free Washington Beacon, questions about whether he assesses that Iran’s protesters are seeking regime change, even as those protesters chant “Death to the Dictator” and make it clear that they want to dismantle the theocratic government.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a leading congressional critic of a new deal in Iran, said the free beacon, that “the Biden administration is literally invested in the survival of the Iranian regime because the administration wants Iranian oil to make up for the disaster they created by attacking American energy producers. That’s why they can’t help themselves to support the calls by the Iranian people for regime change.”
“Robert Malley will go down in the history books as the most ineffective and feckless State Department official in the last 50 years. It’s time for him to go,” said Bryan Leib, executive director of Iranian Americans for Freedom, a grassroots group that supports democracy. , said the free beacon,. “His latest gaffe on Twitter is just another example of how he has aligned the US government with the Islamic Republic and not with the freedom-seeking people of Iran. His fake apology is unacceptable and should stop be added immediately.”
Leib’s comments were echoed by many on Twitter, who accused Malley of covering up the issue.
“It’s a revolution,” Alireza Nader, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, responded to Malley’s tweet.
“Respect?” asked popular Iranian commentator Saman Arabi. “Iranian [people] literally asking for regime change!”
Although Malley later apologized for his tweet, saying it was “badly worded,” congressional sources and other foreign policy insiders say the damage has been done and Malley’s credibility with Iran’s reformers has been shattered.
“As long as Malley is special envoy, you know the administration’s policy is still to offer sanctions relief to the regime in Tehran,” said Richard Goldberg, a former White House National Security Council official who worked on Iran issues and is now a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “If he leaves, it will be the first sign of a policy shift away from serving the regime and towards helping the Iranian people.”
The State Department’s formal position on the protest movement is also in doubt. Spokesman Ned Price would not say during the department’s daily briefing Monday if the administration believes the protesters are seeking regime change, although clear evidence was presented that this is the case.
“It is not up to us to interpret what the Iranian people are looking for,” Price said. “We would never intend to characterize what they are looking for.”
Some reporters were confused by this answer, and one said, “Ned, I think the point is, though, you don’t have to interpret what they’re saying. What do you see they’re trying to do? ? Do you think they want something less than a regime change?”
“I’m not going to speak for the Iranian people,” Price replied.
The reporter, Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, continued his line of questioning: “Well, I’d say if I walk down the street carrying a sign saying oranges are bad, okay – orange, the fruit, oranges are bad; they should be banned – what’s my message?”
“I’m the spokesperson for the US State Department. I’m not the spokesperson for Orange,” Price replied.
A State Department spokesman declined to free beacon, request for comments on the administration’s assessment of what the Iranian protesters are demanding.