According to various news accounts the United States is “prepared to offer limited, targeted, and reversible sanctions relief … in return for an unspecified …. first step agreed to by Iran that halts their program from advancing further.” For my friends and colleagues who are long-time U.S.-Cuba policy watchers, you’ve been warned.
Like Iran, Cuba is also designated, correctly, as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, there is a great more at stake from a geo-strategic standpoint with Iran. Cuba does not even rank and anyone who argues differently is not anchored in reality. While regime change in Cuba should be a priority, it has not been the case for at least 15 years. A gradual normalization is what has been taking place under both Republican and Democratic Administrations.
Negotiating with the Iranian regime is a foolish endeavor, as it will be with the Cuban regime. Using the rather low Iran standards set by the Obama Administration, if Cuba plays their political cards right, it can secure significant concessions from the Obama Administration.
Compared to Iran, Cuba needs to only a give a little politically to secure a robust sanctions policy easing. Release a few political prisoners, start talking about compensating U.S. persons for certified property confiscations, and maybe some perfunctory cooperation in narcotics and migration. By all accounts the Obama national security team, with the help of interlocutors such as the Catholic Church, is willing to give it shot.
Why would the Obama Administration waste political capital on Cuba? For the same reason they are engaging in the Iran talks: ego-centric legacy building, not what is in the U.S. national interest.