Returning Cuba to terror list is an 11th hour move by Pompeo and Trump

Does Cuba belong back on the US's State Sponsors of Terrorism list? The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board showed their support for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's decision on this issue in a recent opinion piece, "Cuba's Support for Terror." But in this edition of The Red Pen, Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analysts Risa Grais-Targow, Jeffrey Wright and Regina Argenzio argue that the WSJ's op-ed goes too far.

We are now just a few days away from the official end of Donald Trump's presidency, but the impacts of his latest moves in office will obviously last far beyond Joe Biden's inauguration. There's the deep structural political polarization, the ongoing investigations into the violence we saw at the Capitol, lord knows what happens over the next few days, there's also last-minute policy decisions here and abroad. And that's where we're taking our Red Pen this week, specifically US relations with Cuba.


The Trump administration this past week declared Cuba a "state sponsor of terrorism." Just to remind you, the Obama administration removed Cuba from that list in 2015 as part of a broader opening with the communist country. The Wall Street Journal editorial board is a big fan of the decision to put it back on the list.

Cuba has problems when it comes to human rights and suppression of political opponents, plus close ties to countries that the United States hardly friendly with, like Iran and Venezuela. But we think this op-ed actually goes too far, as does Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's parting shot of putting that nation back on this list.

So, let's get to it. First, The Editorial Board writes that "Cuba will attempt to coax Joe Biden to resume Mr. Obama's courtship, but the regime never honored its promises at home or abroad."

Well, Cuba wasn't really given a chance, and that wasn't the point. Trump started to roll back Obama's policies immediately after becoming president. Obama intended to engage the Cuban population and encourage economic opening with the United States as a way to bring about political change. The policy was never about the communist regime's "promises."

..."the regime never honored its promises or abroad." It never had the chance to keep promises.

Next, the Wall Street Journal argues that Cuba is responsible for the "collapse of Venezuela's democracy." Maduro "survives in power thanks to Cuba," and Venezuela has become a "base for transnational crime and terrorism."

Now, it's true, Cuba has and does support the Maduro regime. So have Russia, Turkey, China, and Iran. US sanctions have also deepened Venezuela's crisis. And the United States doesn't seem so concerned about Venezuela being a terrorist base since Venezuela is not actually on the terrorist list itself.

"...a Cuban satellite used fas a base for transnational crime and terrorism." Venezuela isn't even on the sponsors of terror list!

The op-ed also states that Cuba has "deepened and broadened its commitment to terrorism," and that the nation harbors terrorists and criminals wanted by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

By this standard it's true, but many US allies would also need to make the list. Saudi Arabia for example, has long harbored people suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks. France refuses to extradite its own citizens to face US courts. And by the way, the United States has harbored many anti-Castro exiles who have committed acts of violence in Cuba.

"..it has deepened and broadened its commitment to terrorism."  Let's be honest: this isn't about anything Cuba did.

Now Cuba is far from being blameless, but that's not the point. Why put Cuba back on this list now? The decision has a lot more to do with the US political calendar than anything Cuba has done. The 11th hour move is intended to complicate Biden's Cuba plans, nothing more.

"...it has deepened and broadened its commitment to terrorism." Is Cuba blameless? Of course not. Neither is America.

It was Ronald Reagan who first added Cuba to the terrorism list back in 1982, and the US had embargoes in place with Cuba for nearly 50 years. Communist government is still in power and still repressive.

What makes Trump, or the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, think this time around is going to be any different? It feels more like another mess to toss at the incoming president and his administration.

Add it to the growing pile.

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Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

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