Friday, April 17, 2015

Cuba and the Campaign to end the State Sponsors of Terrorism List

"Iran and Cuba, in cooperation with each other, can bring America to its knees." ... "The U.S. regime is very weak, and we are witnessing this weakness from close up." - Fidel Castro, University of Tehran, Iran May 10, 2001 quoted in the Agence France Presse

"Our positions, versions, interpretations are alike, very close. We have been good friends, we are and will be, and we will be together forever. Long live Cuba! - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Havana, Cuba, January 12, 2012

There is a campaign underway not only to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism but to do away with the list altogether. Ignoring the Castro regime's long history of not only sponsoring and training terrorists, but also engaging in terrorism, the drive has been on for years to remove this dictatorship from the list. However, the end goal is not Cuba but getting rid of the list of state sponsors of terrorism itself. 

Business interests in the United States have a long history of hostility to unilateral sanctions against regimes engaged in behaviors that Americans find reprehensible.  Since 1997 they have joined together in USA Engage to target  policymakers, opinion leaders and shape public opinion in order not only to gut and end sanctions against rogue regimes but to also prevent individual victims from taking human rights abusers to court under the Alien Tort Statute.

 Stripping states and local governments of their moral authority
Corporate America has also been successful through the courts at eliminating long held rights of states and localities to decide whether or not they want to trade with a country engaged in despicable practices.  The anti-apartheid campaign that began at the local and state level with divestment campaigns in the 1970s would not survive legal challenges today. Since 2000 with the Supreme Court decision citing the supremacy clause in Crosby versus National Foreign Trade Council relations or trade with a foreign country are governed by the federal government. State and local governments can no longer place their own sanctions on foreign regimes unless it is in accordance with federal government policy. In 2000 the Supreme Court forced Massachusetts to do business with companies that had done business with the military junta in Burma. According to constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson in the Fordham Law Review the Crosby decision compels state and local governments to cooperate with evil. 

Brief history of the terror sponsor list
Corporate America would like to see the terror sponsor list done away with because it is a unilateral measure that limits their ability to trade with these rogue regimes. USA Engage offers the following historical brief on the list and its concrete impact:
In December 1979, the U.S. Department of State began to designate governments that “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” as state sponsors of terrorism. Designation is formally made by the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counter-terrorism. Designated states are subject to sanctions, including a ban on U.S. arms sales, controls on dual-use items, a prohibition on economic assistance, a requirement that the U.S. oppose loans by international financial institutions, the denial of tax credits to U.S. citizens for income earned in the designated country, and denial of duty-free treatment of exports to the U.S. Designation also requires a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control for U.S. citizens engaging in financial transactions in a designated country. The Department of Defense is also prohibited from entering into contracts for more than $100,000 with a company controlled by a designated state.
Campaigning to get rid of the whole list would be a tall order, but the strategy appears to have been to whittle down, one by one, these rogue regimes. The Bush administration removed Iraq from the list in 2004, Libya in 2006 and North Korea in 2008

Deja Vu: Democratic government releases terrorist to advance business deal 
In the case of Libya in 2009 the lone convicted terrorist of the Lockerbie bombing, who murdered 270 people in 1988 when he blew up Pan Am Flight 103 was freed officially on humanitarian grounds. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, a Libyan intelligence officer, who was jailed in 2001 was freed and sent back to Muammar Gaddafi, it was revealed later, in exchange for an arms deal with a UK weapons manufacturer. Thousands welcomed home as a hero the Lockerbie bomber in an event choreographed by the Libyan dictator. At the time time President Barack Obama said the release was a mistake, but five years later he released Gerardo Hernández, a Cuban intelligence officer,  jailed in 1998 for conspiracy to murder four people in 1996  in what was an act of international terrorism. The Cuban spy and terrorist was returned to Raul Castro and the dictatorship organized a hero's welcome in Cuba. Both releases were billed as humanitarian.

State Department fails to report on North Korea's bad acts
Taking North Korea off the list did not improve the regime's behavior. However, it is important to recall what is publicly known about Pyongyang and how it came to be placed on the list. The Reagan Administration designated the DPRK a state terror sponsor after it was implicated in the 1987 bombing of  a South Korean airliner, in which more than 100 people died. Beginning in the 1970s North Korea kidnapped Japanese and other foreign nationals in order to improve their intelligence capabilities. Some suspect that an American who went missing in 2004 was taken by the North Koreans while hiking in China.  North Korea may be responsible for over 500 disappearances world wide including taking victims from China, France, Holland, Malaysia, Thailand, Romania and Singapore. The State Department claims that this is the last act that can be linked to North Korea as terrorism. This ignores press reports that in the 1990s North Korea infiltrated terror squads into the United States with orders to attack nuclear power plants in major cities if war broke out. Other U.S. government agencies have stated that  North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear reactor,  and that North Korea and Iran cooperate closely  in missile development. According to press reports, North Korea has provided support to Hamas  and Hezbollah, and has targeted North Korean refugees living overseas for kidnapping and  assassination. In December of 2014, North Korea engaged in a hacking attack on the Sony company in the United States.

How the Castro regime made the list of terror sponsors
On March 1, 1982 the Cuban dictatorship was placed on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. This was less than three months after the US State Department confirmed that the Castro regime was using a narcotics ring to funnel both arms and cash to the Colombian M19 terrorist group then battling to overthrow Colombia’s democratic government. Despite the Castro regime's denials, it has a long and well documented history of sponsoring and taking part in terrorism, including utilizing the tactic in the struggle against dictator Fulgencio Batista. On New Year’s Eve in 1956 members of Castro's 26th of July movement set off bombs in the Tropicana, blowing off the arm of a seventeen-year-old girl. From bombings, killings, and arson in 1957 to a botched hijacking to smuggle weapons to Cuban guerrillas that led to 14 dead and the night of the 100 bombs in 1958 . The organizer of the bombing campaign Sergio González López nicknamed “El Curita” and the terrorist action itself are remembered fondly by the dictatorship that named a park in his honor along with a plaque. Regime apologists now deny that anyone was wounded or killed but the memories of those who lived through this say otherwise. González López was captured, tortured, and killed by agents of the Batista dictatorship on March 18, 1958. A pro-Cuban dictatorship website recalls some of El Curita's actions:
“He actively participated in the actions of the burning of Standard Oil; the bombing of Bejucal Railway Station cable, the cable from the Bus Station, the explosion of Vento, in the action of the Tunnel and the explosion of 120 coordinated bombings in Havana, which in a telephone phone call on this occasion to the chief of police, he told him “Coward, prepare your ear tonight ... we are going to explode 100 bombs under your own noses.
The dictatorship has practiced, trained, and published manuals with chapters on how to engage in terrorism and never renounced it, and on more than one occasion targeted the United States.  Not only does the Castro regime continue to harbor terrorists wanted in the United States but in 2010 celebrated the life of a terrorist who attacked the U.S. capitol in 1983 in its official media.
Why is the Castro regime smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition?
There are plenty of reasons why the actions of the dictatorship in Cuba earn it a spot on the list of terror sponsors, but two disturbing incidents within the past 20 months should give The White House pause. The two claims made by the Obama administration for lifting the terror sponsor designation on the Castro regime are that it "has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding 6-month period," and secondly that the dictatorship "has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future."

The regime in Cuba has been smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition around the world for decades, and twice within the past 20 months they've been caught red handed, including within the past six months. defines smuggling as: "to import or export (goods) secretly, in violation of the law, especially without payment of legal duty."  The only reasons I can think of to smuggle weapons shipments are that where they wind up not be traced back to the entity doing the smuggling as the weapons shipment seized in Colombia in February 2015 or the weapons shipment would be in violation of international sanctions, as was the case in July 2013 with North Korea.

In the case of the ship stopped in Colombia in February 2015, the claim was that the cargo was "grain products" in reality it was "around 100 tonnes of powder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shell."

 In the  the shipment of smuggled weapons sent by Cuba to North Korea, hidden under bags of sugar, what was found, in part, was the following: "A total of 25 standard shipping containers (16 forty-foot and 9 twenty-foot) and 6 trailers were found, for a total of about 240 tons of arms and related materiel." The Cubans provided the North Koreans with surface to air missile systems, two MiG 21 jet fighters, and 15 MiG-21 engines, eight 73 mm rocket propelled projectiles (PG-9/PG-15 anti-tank and OG-9/OG-15 fragmentation projectiles) to be fired with recoil-less rifles, as well as a single PG-7VR round, a high explosive antitank tandem charge to penetrate explosive reactive armor, were also in the shipment. 

The dictatorship not only gave assurances that it would not support international terrorism in the future but also claimed that it had never supported terrorism in the past, which is a lie they have often repeated. In 1976 in an Address to the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), Fidel Castro boasted:  "If we decide to carry out terrorism, it is a sure thing we would be efficient. But the mere fact that the Cuban revolution has never implemented terrorism does not mean that we renounce it. We would like to issue this warning." 

Sanctions and Leverage
The Spanish government had asked the United States, in its talks with the Castro regime, to press for  the extradition of ETA terrorists given safe haven in Cuba.  This raises an important question: If Spain has had a policy of engagement both political and economic for decades then why does it need to ask the U.S. to intercede on its behalf in these negotiations? The answer is that the terror sponsor list and economic sanctions provide leverage.  Finally, sanctions are a nonviolent way to restrict hard currency and limit resources to the dictatorship to limit its mischief which includes sponsoring terrorism.

Predicting the aftermath
Expect within a year or two, or perhaps sooner, when the case is made to remove the next terror sponsor to hear the argument that the terror sponsor list is useless because North Korea and Cuba are not on it and that it should be gotten rid of.  The world will be a more dangerous place with state sponsors of terrorism having more resources to sponsor and carry out acts of terrorism. 

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