Ben Rhodes and Cuba

Monday, May 9, 2016
Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser (and foreign policy alter-ego) Ben Rhodes has been the subject of intense criticism since last week's New York Times profile (see here and here), which highlighted his inexperience, arrogance and lies.

This morning, Rhodes, a former fiction novelist, defended himself from criticism over his manipulation of the Iran deal by arguing that the negotiations were never secret and that he played a supporting role to senior diplomats, including John Kerry, Wendy Sherman and Bill Burns.

Both arguable points, as many facts were hidden from the American people and, as former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have revealed, Rhodes was (more than) a gatekeeper to Obama in the deal.

However, the negotiations that were unarguably secret and which Rhodes led, were the 18-month talks with Cuba's regime in Ottawa, Toronto and Rome.

Rhodes led these negotiations, which kept senior U.S. diplomats in the dark. His counter-part on the Cuban side was Raul Castro's son, Fidel's protege and senior Ministry of the Interior official, Col. Alejandro Castro.

In other words, Obama's young, inexperienced, prep-school fiction writer, which is defined by his colleagues in the NYT profile as "having no poker face", led the negotiation versus some of the most seasoned and manipulative intelligence officials in the world.

Since then, any senior State Department diplomats who have expressed caution or concern have been marginalized by Rhodes. Meanwhile, concerns over the legality of certain measures by career Treasury officials have been overruled by Rhodes.

As The Washington Post's Chuck Lane astutely tweeted: "One thought apropos NYT Ben Rhodes profile: Raul Castro, and his son (Rhodes negotiating partner), eat people like this for breakfast."

And indeed they did.

Regardless how you feel about sanctions, it's indisputable that the Obama Administrations (led by Rhodes) got rolled by the Castro regime.

The talks were coerced by the taking of an American hostage (development worker Alan Gross) and, in exchange, the Obama Administration has given, given, given, and keeps giving -- while getting nothing in return (other than Gross).

Castro got three convicted spies back (including one serving a life sentence for the murder of Americans); removed from the state-sponsors of terrorism list (while still harboring terrorists, including one of the FBI's Most Wanted); diplomatic recognition (short of Vienna Convention standards); eased travel sanctions (for Castro's military-owned tourism monopolies); access to international dollar transactions (to shuffle illicit gains); stolen trademark recognition (to continue encouraging larceny); a two-year pass for stealing a U.S. Hellfire missile (shared with our foes); and international legitimacy (that has resulted in over $30 billion in foreign debt relief).

And the Cuban people? They are getting record-numbers of political arrests, a migration crisis, less economic reforms, tenfold religious persecution, over 200 demolished churches and a new generation of Castros (blessed by the Obama Administration) in control.

Oh, not to mention Chanel and the Kardashians mocking Cubans' repression and misery.

Great job, Ben.