Biden's Iran envoy Robert Malley bolstered by Arabian Gulf support for nuclear deal

US official hopes for a return to the agreement to enhance security in the region

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley speaks in Manama on November 19, 2021. AFP
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US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said on Friday that the purpose of his visit to the Arabian Gulf has been to listen to allies in the region ahead of the resumption of talks with Iran in Vienna.

He also delivered a message to the region that US President Joe Biden would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In a briefing in Manama, Mr Malley said that he was encouraged to hear “a message of clear support for the JCPOA” – the acronym for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement between Iran and western powers – from GCC, Egyptian and Jordanian allies, and “if this Iranian government is interested in good relations with them then they must sign up to the JCPOA”.

Speaking before of the start of IISS Manama Dialogue, Mr Malley said that the Biden administration is committed to the security of the region and was looking into Iran’s activities in the region.

“We are equally focused on all the activities in our discussions with our Egyptian, Jordanian and GCC allies.”

He said that “helping our partners defend our allies and deter Iran is a focus for the US”.

Mr Malley clarified that the Vienna talks are only about the nuclear deal, but also said that a return to that agreement would be an important element in stabilising the region, saying: “We hope that if we get back to the [deal] we can discuss a regional security architecture."

Mr Malley also said that his country is “making an effort” with China and Russia in the line up to the Vienna talks.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant, south-east of the city of the same name, in Iran. AFP

The US envoy refused to go into the details of the talks, saying: “We are trying to be as disciplined as we can be on the details of the negotiations”. But he did indicate that there are steps that Iran can take to prove its seriousness in getting back to the deal.

He warned, however, that “time is running out ... they are going to create a proliferation crisis”.

Mr Malley said: “President Biden has made clear that he will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon ... and he means what he says."

He also said that “Iran’s advances are making the tock click faster”, which could make a return to the deal impossible. He would not clarify what would make that deal impossible.

In terms of Tehran’s activities in the region, Mr Malley said that “Iran’s role in the region is often a result of the dysfunction of countries”, counting off countries such as Iraq, Yemen and Syria. He emphasised that the best response to Iran’s role in those countries is to resolve conflicts within those countries. “It won’t be something dictated from Washington.”

Updated: November 19, 2021, 3:18 PM