The Republican-led House Oversight Committee has launched a broad investigation into the Biden administration’s Iran policy and the activities of its suspended special envoy to Tehran, Robert Malley, accusing the State Department of “concealing” from Congress the reasons behind his departure.
The investigation, described in a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also seeks information on Malley’s ties to an Iranian government information operation, called the Iran Experts Initiative, which Semafor revealed last month based on a large cache of Iranian government communications acquired by the Persian-language television channel, Iran International. One of the members of this initiative, according to the documents, is Ariane Tabatabai, who currently holds a senior position inside the Pentagon and was initially brought on to Malley’s Iran negotiating team in 2021.
“The administration’s lack of transparency is even more troubling in light of press reports about Iran’s direct role in this weekend’s horrific attack on Israel by Hamas and additional revelations that former Special Envoy for Iran (SEI), Robert Malley, and members of his negotiating team have had compromising ties to the Iranian regime,” the letter reads.
The Committee is demanding from the Biden administration access to Malley’s communications with Iran as well as documents tied to the State Department’s investigation and revoking of his U.S. government security clearance. The Committee is also seeking access to the paper trail surrounding the approval of Tabatabai’s security clearance. Chairman James Comer is requesting a State Department briefing on these issues by October 18.
Separately on Wednesday, the top Republicans in the Senate and House Foreign Affairs Committees released their own letter to Blinken demanding answers on Malley’s activities and departure, as well as his potential ties to Tehran through the Iran Experts Initiative. “Our concerns over the potential national security implications of Mr. Malley’s activities and those of his associates continue to grow,” the letter states.
Malley’s security clearance was pulled in April, and he was placed on unpaid leave in June.
The Biden administration is facing a perfect storm of bad news when it comes to Iran.
Republican scrutiny intensified last month when the U.S. agreed to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian oil money as part of an agreement with Tehran to secure the release of five Americans held in Iranian prisons. Republicans accused the White House of paying a ransom and questioned the legality of the funds’ transfer. This Republican criticism was only stoked further by the disclosure of the Iran Experts Initiative and the State Department’s months-long refusal to address the reasons behind Malley’s suspension.
Hamas’s attack on southern Israel has driven this scrutiny to a fever pitch. Iran is Hamas’s primary funder and arms supplier, and meetings between Hamas and Iranian officials in Beirut and Tehran have been documented in the weeks before the attack. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Iran was operationally involved in the attack, though both the Biden administration and Israel have said they’ve yet to confirm this involvement.
Republicans are now seeking to block the disbursement of the $6 billion.
The View From the White House
The Biden administration has pledged unwavering support for Israel’s war on Hamas but has been careful not to directly blame Tehran for involvement in last weekend’s attack. “Iran has long supported Hamas and other terrorist networks throughout the region with resources, capabilities, training,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told MSNBC on Tuesday. “Iran is complicit here, but in terms of specific evidence on this, these sorts of attacks, no, we don’t have anything.”
The Pentagon has moved its Gerard R. Ford carrier strike group to the waters off Lebanon and Gaza as a clear warning to Tehran and its allies not to get involved in the Gaza war. “Our force posture movements are not only in support of Israel but also to deter any other entities that might decide to support Hamas,” said the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Charles Q Brown, on Monday.