UPDATE: As of about 1300, 14OCT15 Fox News ran with a story on this matter.
Cuba in Syria? Plausible, given the history.
In an e-mail alert yesterday from the University of Miami Institute for Cuba and Cuban-American Studies, the Institute published one-page memo making serious allegations about potential Cuba involvement in the Syrian civil war.
I was somewhat skeptical and, at first, opted not to post it. However, after a few inquiries in town, no one dissuaded me from passing it along so I’m going to share it with you here. Draw your own conclusions.
According to an unnamed but “reliable” source, the Institute’s staff made the following statement:
General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, Head of the Cuban Armed Forces, visited Syria recently leading a group of Cuban military personnel sent by Cuba in support of Syria’s dictator Assad and Russian involvement in that country.
The memo goes on to make a few conclusions, including that this information, if true, could signal a new “Cuban internationalism,” and that the regime has not changed its ways. While I’m certain that the regime has not changed its ways, I’m not prepared to make the leap (as were most people in this town who know better than most who I talked with yesterday evening), unless the Institute publishes more, about a newer and more aggressive foreign policy by the regime.
I could see someone like a Cintra Frias heading over to Syria, and other places, to assist allies such as Assad. Raul Castro and Assad are close. Maybe Iran asked for the help. Cuba and Iran are close. I can also see Cuban soldiers may also be helping out with Russian tanks. Cubans know their way around Russian military equipment. But can the Cubans the afford it (politically and economically)? If the Russians are fronting the money, possibly.
You may be asking, but why would Cuba risk alienating supporters in the United States who have been helping them ease sanctions and improve relations? Because they can. They sense weakness they may be trying to push the envelope to see how much they can get away with. If they are refusing to buy food from American growers over sanctions (they’ve playing a political game of chicken with U.S. policymakers all year), then Cuban adventurism in the Middle East and other places.
One thing is certain, if this story turns out to be true, the Obama Administration will have a lot of explaining to do. Not only did they prematurely remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list for matters unrelated to this potential Syria development, but they may now have an out of control Latin American power meddling where it does not belong with two of the three remaining state sponsors of terrorism: Iran and Syria. By the way, Cuba maintains close relations with the only other state sponsor of terrorism, Sudan.
If you or your company is looking to engage in transactions with Cuba that allowed under executions to the comprehensive U.S. embargo, stories such as these are reminders that you must tread carefully when engaging with the Cuban government. Not only are senior leaders a paranoid lot and corruption rampant, but they also keep shady connections with international pariah states such as Iran and Syria. These and other challenges present unique compliance risks that no amount of politics can whitewash.
If the people Americans are supposed to do business with in Cuba — the Cuban military — are also off doing business with the Iranian and the Syrians, do the math …