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What does Rob Malley’s suspension mean for Iran?

While Iran's pro-government conservative media outlets have attempted to downplay the significance of this development, reformist sources view it as an ominous sign.
Robert Malley, Biden administration special envoy for Iran, testifies about the JCPOA during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, Washington, May 25, 2022.

TEHRAN — The news of US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley being placed on unpaid leave, which broke on June 29, has reverberated throughout Iran, capturing the attention of the media and even causing stock market fluctuations.

On Friday, Semafor reported that the FBI has now taken over the investigation into Malley's handling of classified material.

When Malley was appointed by US President Joe Biden to lead the talks with then-President Hassan Rouhani in spring 2021, pro-reform media outlets hailed it as a positive signal from the US government regarding the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal was reached between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany) to limit Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting the imposed sanctions. However, former US President Donald Trump exited the agreement in May 2018 and reimposed the sanctions.

In the final days of Rouhani's tenure in 2021, Tehran and Washington stood on the brink of a significant breakthrough in revitalizing the JCPOA. Russian chief negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov described the talks as on the verge of a deal, with 90% of issues solved. However, the transition to a hard-line leadership under President Ebrahim Raisi in August 2021 necessitated a temporary pause in the negotiations, delaying the talks for few months. Despite several close calls, the anticipated agreement could not materialize.

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