After a variety of ambiguous reports, the State Department clarified on June 29 that the special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, has been placed on indefinite leave, apparently pending a review of his security clearance. Malley had resigned from his role as an advisor to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 due to his contacts with Hamas. The incident didn’t prevent him from being appointed to the National Security Council in 2014, or from serving as a lead negotiator in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Malley is the son of an Egyptian Jewish Arab-nationalist intellectual with close ties to Gamal Abdel Nasser and Yasir Arafat. The elder Malley was, as the Endowment for Middle East Truth explains, an enthusiastic member of the “Third Worldist” movement, informed by the works of Frantz Fanon, that saw Western imperialism as the world’s great evil and admired all revolts against it, especially that in Algeria. Yet, while the younger Malley was very much shaped by that upbringing, he represents a distinct phenomenon:
After college, Malley became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, a Supreme Court clerk, and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. . . . Malley is a fully credentialed member of America’s most prestigious institutions, and he represents a new rising progressive America that largely internalized the anti-imperialist image of the United States’ global power.
The recent news that Robert Malley has been put on leave from his position as the special envoy to Iran had many—including many Iranian dissidents and activists—hoping that the man who oversaw the empowerment of the Middle East’s leading criminal regime is finally leaving the picture for good. But this hope could prove to be misguided. Whether Robert Malley stays involved with the U.S. government or retires and spends his remaining days fishing in the Bahamas, it won’t make much difference. Malley is merely one person, but the way of thinking he represents has already taken over, irreversibly, many American institutions.
Robert Malley is not part of a global America-hating conspiracy. He is not taking orders from Tehran and is not a fifth column for the ayatollah. He is not a self-hating Jew who is secretly plotting the destruction of Israel with Hamas and the PLO. Such populist and obsessive language is one of the main reasons that Robert Malley, and the American socio-historical development he represents, gained the upper hand.
In the epilogue of his book The Call from Algeria, Malley spoke of his relationship with the [Third Worldist] ideology in the past tense. He made it clear he is no longer a true believer. . . . However, what Malley does represent is a new America that is hellbent on undoing its own power.