A Not-so-Veiled (and Irresponsible) Threat Against Menendez

Friday, January 17, 2014
Foreign Policy's Yochi Dreazen seems to only have one assignment: to attack Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Last November, Yochi attacked Menendez for refusing to barter with the Cuban dictatorship for the release of American hostage Alan Gross -- a move that would only risk more American lives.

Now today, he's attacking Menendez for wanting to hold Iran's mullahs accountable -- ensuring that they don't take the international community for (yet another) dangerous ride.

Whether Yochi's attacks are his own volition or he's acting as a surrogate for someone else is unknown.

However, in today's attack, Yochi risks opening a dangerous Pandora's Box.

He features this not-so-veiled threat against Menendez:

"Menendez's hard-line positions on the Cuban issue could leave him vulnerable to White House retaliation. The White House has long signaled a willingness to pursue better ties with the Castro government by relaxing some of the decades-old sanctions against the island nation, making it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel home, and cutting back on U.S.-funded pro-democracy programs in the country.

Menendez opposes each of those initiatives and has managed to prevent several of them from being put into practice [...]

This time around, the administration could decide to punish Menendez for his support of the Iran sanctions bill by cutting those programs, promoting cultural exchanges with Cuba, further easing travel restrictions, or taking other concrete steps to build a stronger relationship with Havana.

'That's Menendez's soft underbelly,' said one senior congressional aide. 'Menendez has become the principal Democratic thorn in the administration's side. If I'm president and I want to stick it to Menendez, I would take it out on his Cuba policy.'"

What Yochi and this ingenious "congressional aide" don't realize is that such outrageous propositions are two-way streets.

In the same manner as the Obama Administration can use Cuba policy to threaten Menendez on Iran, Menendez can use Iran policy to threaten the Obama Administration on Cuba.

Surely, the latter would be seen as outrageous -- as should the first.

Needless to say, both would be highly irresponsible.

Cuba and Iran policy should be conducted on their own merits, pursuant to U.S. law.

But this is what happens when journalists and bureaucrats confuse their own personal agendas with policy-making -- they create unfortunate scenarios that can lead to serious political brinkmanship.

Then, everybody loses.