Photo Credit: International Peace Institute; The White House / via Wikimedia
Robert Malley and President Joe Biden

In 2014, Iran’s Foreign Ministry forged close ties with a network of Western academics they dubbed the Iran Experts Initiative (IEI). According to Semafor, the network included at least three top aides to Robert Malley, Biden’s special envoy on Iran whose security clearance was suspended last June (Inside Iran’s influence operation).

In 2019, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met in New York with Malley, who had been the Obama administration’s negotiator of the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal with Iran. In September 2019, then-President Trump wanted to use the UN General Assembly meeting to open a backchannel of communication with top Iranian officials to ease the escalating tensions with Tehran, but the effort failed. According to The Washington Times, Malley torpedoed the Trump White House efforts, forging a pact between Obama administration veterans and Iran that allowed the Iranians to bypass Trump entirely, in anticipation of a Democratic win in 2020. Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry met with Zarif at least twice during the Trump administration.


But the full scale of the IEI project has emerged only recently, with the discovery of numerous Iranian government letters and emails, according to Semafor, and Iran International, a London-based Persian-language television news channel. The Iranian regime succeeded in roping in Obama diplomats who saturated the US media with pro-Iranian op-eds and analyses, as well as TV news appearances and tweets supporting a compromise with Tehran on the nuclear issue. A German academic involved in the IEI offered to ghostwrite op-eds for Tehran regime officials, offering them improved access to Germany’s public opinion.

On March 5, 2014, Saeed Khatibzadeh, an Iranian diplomat stationed in Berlin, emailed Mostafa Zahrani, the head of a Tehran think tank: “This initiative which we call ‘Iran Experts Initiative (IEI)’ consisted of a core group of 6-10 distinguished second-generation Iranians who have established affiliations with the leading international think-tanks and academic institutions, mainly in Europe and the US.”

Ali Vaez, Senior Adviser to the President & Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group. / U.S. Institute of Peace

Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director and Senior Adviser to the President, was Malley’s underling who led the outfit’s efforts to “bridge the gaps between Iran and the P5+1 that led to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.” Vaez emailed Foreign Minister Zarif directly in October 2014: “As an Iranian, based on my national and patriotic duty, I have not hesitated to help you in any way; from proposing to Your Excellency a public campaign against the notion of a nuclear breakout, to assisting your team in preparing reports on practical needs of Iran.”

The email explains why the Biden administration was unable to obtain a security clearance for Vaez, even as it had arranged for one for Malley.

Ariane Tabatabai (masked), seated behind Robert Malley, in a meeting with IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, April 7, 2021. / Dean Calma / IAEA

And then there was Ariane Tabatabai, another Malley follower, an Iranian-American senior policy advisor to the Dept. of Defense. In June 2014, Tabatabai emailed think tank leader Zahrani that she was going to attend conferences in Saudi Arabia and Israel, adding: “I would like to ask your opinion too and see if you think I should accept the invitation and go.”

That’s a senior advisor to the US government asking for her instructions from an operator of the Islamic Republic.

Zahrani wrote back that she should go to Saudi Arabia, but “better avoid” Israel. So, she replied: “Thank you very much for your advice. I will take action regarding Saudi Arabia and will keep you updated on the progress.”

The record shows that she didn’t go to Israel.

In June 2015, the Obama White House publicized a letter signed by 36 generals and admirals praising the Iran deal.

In January 2021, Malley published an analysis of “Nineteen Conflict Prevention Tips for the Biden Administration,” including, “Return to the Nuclear Deal.” It was a myopic, learned-nothing, forgot-nothing frightening and not a little fanatical statement:
“The Biden administration should pursue US re-entry into the 2015 nuclear deal, starting by revoking the 2018 order ending U.S. JCPOA participation and initiating a process of fully reversing Trump-era sanctions while Iran brings its nuclear program back into full compliance. As further confidence-building measures, Washington could support Iran’s International Monetary Fund loan request as a sign of goodwill in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and perhaps engage Tehran in discussions on a prisoner swap. Early discussions on ending the conflict in Yemen and supporting a dialogue between Iran and Gulf Arab countries could also help lower tensions.

“Biden’s team may be tempted to link rejoining the JCPOA to other issues, but that could put the whole deal in jeopardy. The objective should be a clean re-entry. Other issues, such as regional de-escalation and Iran’s ballistic missile development, are critical, but best pursued subsequent to, not as a condition of, full restoration of the existing agreement.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) released this statement in response to the Semafor report: “Every day, the Rob Malley saga gets more alarming. Not only is the Special Envoy for Iran being investigated by the FBI after having his security clearance suspended, but new reports allege an official responsible for supporting his Iran negotiating team was a core member of an Iranian-run influence campaign. Somehow this official was able to get a security clearance in spite of that, and now works in a senior position at the Defense Department. Between these egregious violations of trust by Biden officials, their mind-boggling $6 billion hostage deal that enriched the largest state-sponsor of terror, and their refusal to enforce sanctions, the Biden administration’s weak Iran policy is emboldening a dangerous adversary. The American people deserve transparency on the Malley saga immediately.”

At this point, the Biden administration, including the Pentagon, is still insisting that IEI was not a spy network, only an Iranian influence-peddling, which is almost the same, except you don’t get the death penalty for treason for the latter. Otherwise, it is mindboggling to consider that the Biden administration willfully employed openly pro-Iranian senior employees while attempting to curb Iran’s spreading terrorism and mayhem in the Middle East and many other parts of the world.

Has anyone told Joe?

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