US Iran envoy on reviving the Iran deal: 'Right now it's not even on the agenda, not the focus'

The reason the talks are at a standstill is that “Iran has taken a position in those talks for the past two months, which is simply inconsistent with a return to the deal,” Rob Malley told CNN.

 ROBERT MALLEY, the Biden administration special envoy for Iran, waits to testify about the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations on Capitol Hill last week. (photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
ROBERT MALLEY, the Biden administration special envoy for Iran, waits to testify about the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations on Capitol Hill last week.
(photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic “is not even on the agenda” and “not the focus, because there is no movement,” according to Rob Malley, the Biden administration’s Iran envoy.

The administration believes the US needs to stop the regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon, he told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Monday.

“Diplomacy is the way to do that,” he said. “We will see whether this is a government that is interested in reaching a deal, but at this point, the focus is on what’s happening... because the talks are stalled.”

“We will see whether this is a government that is interested in reaching that a deal, but at this point, the focus is on what's happening around because the talks are stalled.”

Rob Malley

President Joe Biden made it clear from the first day he came into office that one of his priorities was to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, Malley said, and “he believes, and we continue to believe, that diplomacy is the best way to achieve that goal.”

“But the reason the talks are at a standstill and an impasse, and why they’re not so far moving at all and why they’re not the focus, is because Iran has taken a position in those talks for the past two months, which is simply inconsistent with a return to the deal,” he said. “They’re making demands that have nothing to do with the JCPOA. And as long as that’s the case, the talks will be stopped.”

Asked whether Ukraine is correct in its assessment that Russia used Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian cities, Malley said the US had information as early as July that Iran was preparing to sell hundreds of drones to Russia.

 Rafael Mariano Grossi meeting with Robert Malley, April 7, 2021.. (credit: DEAN CALMA/IAEA VIA FLICKR) Rafael Mariano Grossi meeting with Robert Malley, April 7, 2021.. (credit: DEAN CALMA/IAEA VIA FLICKR)

"We will do what we can to stop" transfer of Iranian weapons to Russia

“And we’re now seeing... as recently as this morning the devastation that those drones are causing,” he said. “We will do what we can to stop” the transfer of Iranian weapons to Russia.

The Iranians are denying it, but everyone can see through those lies – the Ukrainians, first and foremost,” he added. “We will do what we can to stop it by sanctioning Russian, Iranian or any other entity that’s involved in that transfer of weapons.”

Malley also was asked about the Iranian denial of the transfer of those weapons.

“We’d say, just look at the evidence... and I’m confident that the European Union will reach the same conclusion and will sanction those drone transfers,” he said.

Malley later addressed a question about whether the US administration would support regime change in Tehran.

“Our policy is not one of regime change instigated from Washington,” he said. “That’s not our policy.”

“Our policy is to defend and support the fundamental rights of Iranian citizens, just as we want to support the fundamental rights of citizens across the globe,” he added. “The form of government in Iran will be up to the Iranians to decide. Our position, which is very clear, is that we support the fundamental human rights of ordinary Iranian women and men.”