(The Daily Caller News Foundation)—A non-governmental organization (NGO) formerly staffed by a top Biden administration official had previously signed an undisclosed agreement with a think tank controlled by the Iranian government, Semafor reported on Friday.
Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy to Iran who was put on unpaid leave in 2023 over security concerns, previously served as the CEO of the International Crisis Group (ICG), a global non-governmental organization dedicated to preventing wars and conflict, from 2018-2021, and had been involved with the NGO for nearly two decades. The ICG signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the the Tehran-based Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in 2016, but appears to have never disclosed its partnership to Congress, according to Semafor.
IPIS, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s in-house think tank, viewed the ICG as useful because the group could help in Tehran’s larger effort to bolster its image and promote policies on an international level, according to Semafor. Then-president of the IGC President Jean-Marie Guéhenno attended an IPIS international conference on conflict resolution in 2014, then subsequently signed a research and cooperation agreement through a MOU in 2016.
Signing such an MOU with the Iranian regime – or any foreign government – is dangerous as it could restrain an organization’s abilities to have unbiased or objective opinions, six think tank leaders told Semafor. The IPIS is controlled by Iran – the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism – and routinely claims the Holocaust never occurred, which makes any association with it even more concerning, the think tank leaders said.
“If Iran were a Western democracy, this MOU would be understandable, although likely not necessary,” David Albright, former UN weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told Semafor. “This MOU leaves Crisis Group vulnerable to exploitation and creates a pathway of disinformation into U.S. and European decision-making and advisory channels.”
Malley took over the IGC in 2018 and left in 2021, having set up the organization’s Middle East and North Africa programs years prior, according to his State Department bio. IGC refused to say if its MOU with IPIS was still active, but it did tell Semafor that it hasn’t taken money from the Iranian government and is transparent about its funding in publicly-available disclosures.
Malley left the IGC to work as the Biden administration’s top Iran envoy in 2021, but he was put on unpaid leave in 2023 amid security concerns, and an FBI investigation was subsequently launched into his alleged mishandling of classified information. Former U.S. officials suggested that Malley was “compromised” in previous comments to the Daily Caller.
Several of Malley’s close allies and aides were discovered last year to have been members of the Iranian Experts Initiative (IEI), an Iranian global influence operation set up in 2014 that sought to recruit U.S. and European academics and researchers to help promote Iran. One IEI member is currently a senior official at the Pentagon, even despite some lawmakers’ criticisms about her employment.
Malley was recently hired by Yale University to teach a 2024 course on relations between Israel and the Palestinian population.
Malley and the IGC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.