Bret Stephens writes a rather disingenuous column promoting the idea of a “dissidents first” foreign policy. It is a cynical argument that focuses only on dissidents that speak out against adversaries, and it ignores that the coercive policies of sanctions that hawks like Stephens support are usually disastrous for political opponents of sanctioned regimes. Near the end of the column, he engages in a shameless drive-by smear of the Biden administration’s new Iran envoy, Rob Malley, as part of the ongoing smear campaign against him:
In that connection, it beggars belief that the White House is reportedly considering former diplomat Robert Malley as a special envoy for Iran. Malley is widely seen as one of Tehran’s premier apologists in Washington; in November 2019 he went so far as to suggest that massive public protests in Iran justified Tehran’s paranoia about an Israeli-Saudi-U.S. plot. A Malley appointment would signal that, on the things that matter most, Biden’s foreign policy will be coldly transactional.
As usual, Stephens’ claims about Malley are obnoxious and false, and his evidence relies on a selectively edited interview that misrepresents Malley’s position. Stephens makes an extremely serious accusation, and then backs it up with nothing credible. That is not surprising, but it should put his supposed enthusiasm for truth-telling dissenters in perspective. Stephens can’t be paying very close attention to the Biden administration if he has failed to notice that Biden’s National Security Advisor has already spoken in support of political prisoners and victims of abusive regimes in several countries, including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. Just as he is distorting Malley’s record and words, he is distorting the Biden administration’s views as well.
Several people have explained just how wrong Stephens is about Malley:
The first false claim is based on a strategically-edited clip from a long interview with @Rob_Malley whose words are taken out of context.
— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) January 25, 2021