The “state sponsors of terrorism list” is mandated under Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended, under which the Secretary of State makes a determination when a country “has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” As explained in a report on “Cuba and the State Sponsors of Terrorism List,” prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in 2005, “certain trade benefits, most foreign aid, support in the international financial institutions, and other benefits are restricted or denied to countries named as state sponsors of international terrorism.”
Cuba was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism during the first term of the Reagan administration in 1982 because of Cuba’s “efforts to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism.” It has remained on the list ever since – until now.
The Obama administration reversed the long-standing bipartisan designation of Cuba as a terrorist-sponsoring state, with no convincing evidence that Cuba has fundamentally changed its stripes. The administration announced on April 14th that it intends to remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, only days after President Obama’s face-to-face meeting with Cuba’s President Raul Castro on the sidelines of a Latin America summit held in Panama. The White House statement said that “the Government of Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period” and that Cuba’s government has “provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” Congress has 45 days in which to consider the decision before it takes effect.
The Obama administration defended the decision to remove Cuba from the list on the grounds that there has not been any evidence Cuba has continued to provide support for terrorist groups fighting in Colombia and Spain as it had done in the past. Big deal, even if it is true. Cuba still harbors and supports terrorists.
For example, Cuba is still harboring fugitives such as the domestic terrorist and cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, a member of the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, and William Guillermo Morales, the chief bomb-maker and one of the leaders of the Puerto Rican terrorist group, Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN). Chesimard was placed by the FBI in 2013 on the “Most Wanted Terrorist List.” At minimum, she and Morales should have been handed over to U.S. authorities as a pre-condition to Cuba’s removal from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Instead, according to Jeff Rathke, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department, all that Cuba has agreed to do is talk about these cases. “I can’t say we’ve got an agreement on any specific outcome of that dialogue, but Cuba has agreed to open a law enforcement dialogue and this will be part of it,” Rathke said.
And while Cuba may have suspended its support for the Colombia rebels and Basque separatists for the time being, it has not publicly committed itself to ceasing its reported involvement with Hezbollah and Hezbollah’s patron Iran, which remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Several months before 9⁄11, Fidel Castro traveled to Iran and said, “Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees.” Cuba has also shared its biotechnology with the Iranian regime. Has Fidel’s brother Raul, the current president of Cuba, now renounced the Cuba-Iran “cooperation” to “bring America to its knees?” And what is the status, for example, of a base of operations in Cuba that Hezbollah was said to have set up in Cuba in 2011? Is Cuba still working with Venezuela, which harbors Hezbollah terrorists, to aid in Hezbollah’s and Iran’s intelligence gathering activities and shipments of arms? Venezuela’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Diego Arria, said to El Nuevo Herald back in 2013 that “Venezuela is an occupied country. The Venezuelan regime is a puppet controlled by the Cubans. It is no longer Cuban tutelage; it is control.” If still true and Venezuela remains an important center of operations for Iran and Hezbollah, what is Cuba’s role there now? The Obama administration has not provided answers to these questions, at least publicly.
Turkey’s terrorism-linked entity with ties to Hamas, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, has also spread its tentacles to Cuba in recent years. Has the Obama administration confirmed that the Humanitarian Relief Foundation-Cuba link no longer exists or is truly limited to totally benign humanitarian aid such as food shipments?
Then there is Cuba’s relationship with North Korea, which supplies arms to Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran. In 2013, the Cuban regime was caught smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea including 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MiG-21 aircraft, 15 engines for MiG-21 aircraft, components for surface-to-air missile systems, ammunition and miscellaneous arms-related materiel.
It’s bad enough that the Bush administration had decided in 2008 to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It did so in a vain effort to negotiate a nuclear deal. Instead of putting North Korea back on the list where it belongs, and learning from Bush’s mistake, President Obama is doubling down. He has decided to remove Cuba, North Korea’s partner in state sponsorship of terrorism, from the list as well.
Despite the direct connection between North Korea and the terrorist sponsoring state of Iran, as well as with the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas themselves, the question of Cuba’s involvement in attempting to ship arms to North Korea was not deemed relevant by the State Department in recommending Cuba’s removal from the list of terror sponsoring states. Mr. Rathke, the Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department, when asked about Cuba’s close relationship with North Korea, said “that’s separate from the terrorism issue.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes tweeted about the rationale for President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of terror sponsoring states with an absurd ipse dixit (Latin for “he himself said it” – i.e., the only proof of the assertion is that the administration declared it to be so): “Put simply, POTUS is acting to remove #Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list because Cuba is not a State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
Given President Obama’s track record of lies and disastrous foreign policy decisions throughout his presidency, “POTUS” and Secretary of State John Kerry have to do much more to assure the American people that the Cuban regime has truly foresworn all direct or indirect support of terrorist groups than just asking us to trust their word.
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