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US envoy met several times with Iran’s UN ambassador

Robert Malley's reported meetings with Amir Saeid Iravani are likely the first direct American-Iranian interactions since Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the nuclear deal.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley. Source: Screenshot.
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley. Source: Screenshot.

The Biden administration’s special envoy for Iran met on several recent occasions with Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations, in a bid to jumpstart talks regarding the Islamic Republic’s illicit nuclear weapons program.

The Financial Times reported on Friday that Robert Malley met with Amir Saeid Iravani in what were likely the first direct American-Iranian interactions since then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in 2018.

The report cited an anonymous source close to the White House as saying the talks focused primarily on a potential prisoner exchange.

“The prisoner swap is going to be an opener for the talks,” the diplomat said, adding: “It is unlikely there will be a nuclear deal, but there could be some sort of interim thing, or a freeze.”

Another U.S. official said the administration “always believed diplomacy is the best way to verifiably and durably ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.”

A State Department spokesperson told the Financial Times that “we have the means to communicate with Iran and deliver messages to them when it is in America’s interest to do so.”

The report said the meetings were part of a shift in the West due to concern that Iran’s nuclear progress, in contravention to the nuclear deal, could trigger a regional conflict.

“The thing that worries me is that Iran’s decision-making is quite chaotic, and it could stumble its way into war with Israel,” one diplomat was quoted as saying.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the beginning of Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “surrender” to Iran was a “black mark” on the nuclear watchdog’s record.

“About Iran, Iran is continuing to lie to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The agency’s capitulation to Iranian pressure is a black stain on its record,” said Netanyahu.

“We revealed information to the world when we brought to Israel Iran’s secret nuclear archive five years ago. This information unequivocally proved that Iran was violating the oversight agreements and that it was enriching uranium for military—not innocent civilian—purposes,” he added, referring to the Mossad’s 2018 theft of an archive of Iranian nuclear documents from Tehran.

Confidential IAEA reports released last week show that the organization has closed two investigations into Iranian nuclear sites. The IAEA has also reinstalled a small fraction of the monitoring equipment put in place under the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal and removed by the Iranian regime.

Iran’s estimated stockpile of enriched uranium has surpassed 23 times the limit set in the nuclear accord, according to the IAEA.

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