WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Thursday named Robert Malley, a former top adviser in the Obama administration, as special envoy for Iran, a senior State Department official said, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

Malley was a key member of former President Barack Obama’s team that negotiated the nuclear accord with Iran and world powers, an agreement that Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 despite strong opposition from Washington’s European allies.

The post would make Malley the point person in Biden’s efforts to deal with Iran after years of worsening relations under former President Donald Trump, who pulled out of a 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions.

When Malley’s name first surfaced in news reports as a leading candidate for the post, he drew criticism from some Republican lawmakers and pro-Israel groups that expressed concern that he would be soft on Iran and tough on Israel. But a number of foreign policy veterans rushed to his defense, praising him as a respected, evenhanded diplomat.

He held numerous senior positions in the Democratic administrations of Obama and former President Bill Clinton with a focus on Middle East and Gulf policymaking and informally advised Biden’s team during the 2020 campaign.

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