While Obama Was Celebrating With Cuba's Regime at the U.N....

Thursday, October 27, 2016
On the very same Wednesday that the Obama Administration was celebrating its abstention from Cuba's anti-U.S. resolution at the United Nations:

1. Cuba's puppet regime in Venezuela was targeting civilians, violently suppressing democracy.

From Reuters:

Venezuela's opposition stepped up its push to remove leftist President Nicolas Maduro with rallies Wednesday that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters and turned violent with at least three students shot and other people beaten.

2. The Cuban regime was providing logistics support to Russian warships in the Western Hemisphere.

From Russia's TASS:

The Russian Baltic Fleet’s Yaroslav Mudry frigate and Lena tanker have arrived in the Cuban port of Havana on a business visit, fleet spokesman Roman Martov said on Wednesday.

Tweet of the Day: Obama Dangerously Misguided on Iran, Russia and Cuba

Obama Directive Helps Cuba Share U.S. Intel With Iranian Spies, Hezbollah

From The Washington Free Beacon:

Congress: Cuba to Share Critical U.S. Intel With Iranian Spies

Intel sharing with Cuba endangers America, lawmakers warn

Obama administration efforts to bolster the sharing of critical intelligence data with Cuba is likely to benefit Iran, which has been quietly bolstering its foothold in the country with the communist government’s approval, according to conversations with members of Congress and other sources familiar with the matter.

A little noticed Obama administration directive on Cuba, released Oct. 14, instructed the U.S. director of national intelligence to assist and cooperate with Cuba’s intelligence services.

The directive has raised red flags on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are concerned that Cuba will pass along critical U.S. intelligence to the Iranians, who have made moves in recent years to extend their influence in the communist country and other Latin American countries hostile to the United States.

Iran’s interest in Cuba was on fully display earlier this year when Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, went on a goodwill tour throughout Latin America that included stops in Cuba and Venezuela, among others.

The goal of this visit, sources told the Washington Free Beacon, was to solidify Iran’s growing terrorist network in the region and ensure the Islamic Republic maintains its presence along America’s doorstep.

“The Castro regime has shown no inclination to end its anti-American activities, including espionage,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon. “The Castro regime in August and September 2016 deepened ties with Iran through high level visits, and there are reports that Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah has established a base in Cuba.”

“The director of national intelligence, General James R. Clapper, testified in February 2016 that the Castro dictatorship remained an espionage threat at the level of Iran, behind only China and Russia,” Diaz-Balart added. “Under these circumstances, President Obama’s directive to encourage intelligence sharing with the Castro regime is reckless, dangerous, and contrary to U.S. national security interests.”

Iran has been interested in Latin America for years, but now has the resources to pursue a footprint in the region as a result of the cash windfall provided by last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Hezbollah, the terror organization funded and directed by Iran, has had assets in the region for some time.

Iran’s longer-term goal is to establish an intelligence network in the region via various cultural centers and religious establishments that act as a front for Tehran’s spy operation.

The Obama administration’s move to share intelligence with Cuba is likely to be celebrated by Iran, according to congressional sources tracking the matter.

“President Obama’s instruction to DNI Clapper last week to look for ways to cooperate with Cuba on intelligence issues poses an unconscionable threat to the security of the American people,” Victoria Coates, national security adviser for Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), told the Free Beacon.

“The administration tried to bury it under enthusiasm for easing restrictions on the rum and cigars American tourists can buy from Fidel and Raul Castro, but the reality is the Castros are aggressively pursuing a closer relationship with Iran, the mullahs just refinanced Cuba’s debt with the assets they got from the president’s nuclear deal, and Cuba’s close ally, Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, visited Iran this week,” Coates said. “Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is re-establishing Russian intelligence assets in Cuba 90 miles from the United States.”

“What possible confidence can we have that anything we share with the Castros won’t immediately be telegraphed to Tehran and Moscow? This simply makes no sense,” Coates added.

Intelligence released by the State Department and posted on WikiLeaks as part of an email dump from Hillary Clinton’s personal email server shows that Hezbollah was moving into Cuba as far back as 2011.

“During the week of September 5, 2011, extremely sensitive sources reported in confidence that the Israeli Intelligence and Security Service (Mossad) has informed the leadership of the Israeli Government that Hezbollah is establishing an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attacks throughout Latin America,” according to source intelligence contained in the Clinton emails.

“While this operation is aimed particularly at Israeli diplomatic and business interests, these sources believe that Hezbollah supporters have been instructed to also begin casing facilities associated with the United States and the United Kingdom, including diplomatic missions, major banks, and businesses in the region,” the sources claim. “These individuals believe that the Hezbollah military commanders in Lebanon and Syria view these U.S. and U.K. entities as contingency targets to be attacked in the event of U.S. and British military intervention in either Syria or Iran, at some point in the future.”

Congressional sources have also been tracking Iran’s involvement in Latin America for some time.

Iran has opened an embassy in Chile in recent months and its presence has come with an uptick in Hezbollah operations.

“A Hezbollah member was picked up in Brazil, an explosive device was found near the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, and Hezbollah members are reportedly traveling on Venezuelan passports,” a senior congressional aide told the Free Beacon when Zarif was in the region. “It was not too long ago that Venezuela offered flights to Iran and Syria, and as of last week, Hezbollah cells were found in the West Bank where Venezuela lifted its visa requirements for Palestinians.”

“So potential terrorists who want to cause the U.S. harm can travel easily to Venezuela, and once there, they can get to Nicaragua or Cuba without passports or visas, which poses a national security risk for our nation,” the aide said.

At the U.N., Another Obama Kowtow to Cuba's Regime

By Elliott Abrams in The National Review:

At the U.N., Another Obama Kowtow to the Castro Regime

The U.S. abstained in the annual vote to condemn its embargo of Cuba.

Today, for the first time ever, the United States abstained in the annual United Nations General Assembly vote to condemn the U.S. embargo of Cuba. Needless to say, President Obama is very proud, Ben Rhodes is very proud, John Kerry is very proud, and our ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, is especially proud.

Power’s remarks to the General Assembly were a perfect rendition of the Obama approach to Cuba, which is to say they were full of apologies about the United States and falsehoods about Cuba. Let’s take a look.

First, Power said that “after 50-plus years of pursuing the path of isolation, we have chosen to take the path of engagement. Because, as President Obama said in Havana, we recognize that the future of the island lies in the hands of the Cuban people, of course.” The Obama policy has been to engage with Cuban regime, not the Cuban people — who are suffering worse repression since Obama signed his deal with Castro. In what possible sense does the future of the Cuban people, suffering under a Communist dictatorship, lie in their own hands? It quite obviously lies in the hands of the Castros, their anointed successors, and the Communist party of Cuba.

Because Obama’s policy was to give the regime all the new advantages it has gotten without demanding anything serious in exchange – without demanding human-rights improvements, for example — an observer might think that perhaps Obama just doesn’t care much about the rights of the Cuban people. No, no! Power tells us that:

"...abstaining on this resolution does not mean that the United States agrees with all of the policies and practices of the Cuban government. We do not. We are profoundly concerned by the serious human-rights violations that the Cuban government continues to commit with impunity against its own people — including arbitrarily detaining those who criticize the government; threatening, intimidating, and, at times, physically assaulting citizens who take part in peaceful marches and meetings; and severely restricting the access that people on the island have to outside information."

We are profoundly concerned, and what are we going to do about it? Give the regime more free gifts, it seems. There is no hint in what Power said at the U.N. of any additional pressure on Cuba to stop beating and jailing dissidents. None. Then come the apologies. God forbid that criticizing this vicious Communist regime might lead anyone to think we in the U.S. don’t have LOTS to be ashamed of. Power continued:

"Let me be among the first to acknowledge — as our Cuban counterparts often point out — that the United States has work to do in fulfilling these rights for our own citizens. And we know that at times in our history, U.S. leaders and citizens used the pretext of promoting democracy and human rights in the region to justify actions that have left a deep legacy of mistrust. We recognize that our history, in which there is so much that makes us proud, also gives us ample reason to be humble."

It’s worth adding that in the most important sense Power has no Cuban counterpart. Yes, they have ambassadors too, but she is the representative of a duly elected, democratic government. She represents the people of her country. No Cuban official can make that claim.

Is it impossible for a representative of this administration to speak of the United States with pride, period — not pride and apology, not pride and sorrow, not pride and humility, not pride but with reference to crimes in our past — just once? Once?

Power then goes on to say that “we also recognize the areas in which the Cuban government has made significant progress in advancing the welfare of its people, from significantly reducing its child-mortality rate to ensuring that girls have the same access to primary and secondary school as boys.” Any honest study will show how far Cuba has dropped since 1959 in many tables measuring welfare in Latin American countries.

Even PBS has acknowledged that before the Castro takeover:

"...the literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth highest in Latin America. Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita. Many private clinics and hospitals provided services for the poor. Cuba’s income distribution compared favorably with that of other Latin American societies. A thriving middle class held the promise of prosperity and social mobility. . . .

Between 1952 and 1958, Cubans from all walks of life — students, businessmen, mothers, politicians — united in opposition against Batista. Author Carlos Alberto Montaner describes the mood: 'the talk was about democracy, freedom and respect for human rights; the... objective was to restore the rule of law that had been swept aside by Batista.'"

In truth this regime ended Cuba’s economic growth by placing the straitjacket of Communism on its economy, and then of course made sure that if you talked about “democracy, freedom and respect for human rights,” you ended up in prison. For decades. So girls and boys go to school now and learn about Lenin and Fidel and Communism, and Ambassador Power applauds.

But she did not bother to get the facts. I looked at the website of Humanium, a children’s-rights organization, which explains that:

"Cuba, a one-party nation, does not yet respect all children’s rights. While children do have access to the bare essentials, they must still grow up in what are often closed surroundings. . . . Infant mortality, although it is constantly falling, remains a major problem in Cuba. . . . Access to education is compulsory through the ninth year and Cuban law prohibits children below the age of 15 from working. Despite this, numerous children below the age of 15 are seen doing so. . . . In Cuba, the prevailing attitude is that each citizen’s personal success and happiness is of secondary importance in comparison to the State’s well-being. This being the case, children do not have the freedom to do as they wish and express themselves in ways that run contrary to the opinion of the government."

Power then told us that “the United States believes that there is a great deal we can do together with Cuba to tackle global challenges.” Really? Cuba is a very poor country, with GDP per capita about $6–10,000 (ranking around 125th in the world, depending on who’s counting), with a population of 11 million and a brutal tyranny ruling it. There’s a great deal we can do together?

This is the kind of speech that gives rhetoric a bad name. But far worse, it is an abandonment of the people of Cuba, who are struggling, and suffering, for their freedom. This speech barely makes believe that we are with them, for a few lines of text, but then buys into Castro propaganda about the island. Power was obviously instructed to abstain in the vote on the embargo. Fair enough: Ambassadors don’t get to make those decisions. But they do get to choose their words. Hers ought to embarrass her.

Why Obama Should Have Defended Cuban Embargo at U.N.

By Ana Quintana and Brett Schaefer in The Daily Signal:

Here’s Why It’s Wrong That America Refused to Defend Its Embargo on Cuba at the UN

The United States abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution condemning America’s embargo on
For the first time ever, the United States abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution condemning America’s embargo on Cuba.

This breaks decades of bipartisan support for U.S. law on the international stage. It shows just how far the Obama administration is willing to take its misguided and ill-informed Cuba policy.

For the past quarter century, the Castro regime annually introduced a U.N. General Assembly resolution blaming America’s trade embargo for the island’s chronic economic and social problems and calling for the end of the embargo. Until Wednesday, the U.S. has always voted against the resolution, often standing virtually alone in defense of human rights and democracy for the Cuban people.

President Barack Obama’s administration has refuted this bipartisan position. Ben Rhodes, deputy national security Adviser, stated there was “no reason to defend a failed policy.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power celebrated the abstention by declaring the U.S. was closing the door on “50-plus years of pursuing isolation,” in favor of choosing the “path of engagement” in order to be better able to empower the Cuban people.

This is no cause for celebration. The U.S. embargo is not the source of the suffering of ordinary Cubans, but rather the Castro regime and its economically destructive policies. Over 190 countries do not observe the U.S. embargo and engage with Cuba economically and diplomatically, and yet there has been no positive change on the island.

If “engagement” with the rest of the world has not alleviated economic hardship or produced positive political change in Cuba, then the Obama administration and the international community must realize that it has been the policies of the Castro regime itself that have led to the deplorable conditions on the island.

The Obama administration made this exact argument as recently as 2014, when U.S. Ambassador Ronald D. Godard stated in explanation of America’s vote against the Cuba resolution:

"The Cuban government uses this annual resolution in an attempt to shift blame for the island’s economic problems away from its own policy failures … the Cuban economy will not thrive until the Cuban government permits a free and fair labor market, fully empowers Cuban independent entrepreneurs, respects intellectual property rights, allows unfettered access to information via the internet, opens its state monopolies to private competition, and adopts the sound macroeconomic policies that have contributed to the success of Cuba’s neighbors in Latin America. …

The United States strongly supports the Cuban people’s desire to determine their own future, through the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. The right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media is set forth in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is the Cuban government’s policies that continue to prevent enjoyment of this right. …

This resolution only serves to distract from the real problems facing the Cuban people, and therefore my delegation will oppose it … We encourage this world body to support the desires of the Cuban people to choose their own future. By doing so, it would truly advance the principles the United Nations Charter was founded upon, and the purposes for which the United Nations was created."

Abruptly abandoning America’s principled position of championing the Cuban people against the repression of its government is a disgrace.

Repealing the embargo, which is the aim of the U.N. resolution on which the U.S. abstained Wednesday, will do nothing but further empower the brutal Castro regime. It would also serve to diminish the leverage we would bring to any engagement we have with Cuba. The U.S. must recognize that it is the Castro regime that needs to change its policies first, not the other way around.

It is one thing for the Obama administration to pursue its reckless policy toward Cuba domestically, but quite another to fail to defend our nation against a U.N. resolution attacking America’s laws and established policy. It demonstrates a shocking disregard for its responsibility to loyally represent and defend our nation and its policies in international organizations.

Unfortunately, the potential for damage by the Obama administration in the U.N. is not limited to fecklessness on nonbinding Cuba resolutions in the General Assembly.

The Palestinians are reportedly sounding out the Security Council in another attempt to secure full U.N. membership and demand a halt to Israeli settlements. Would anyone be surprised if the Obama administration changed its position on this as well?

House Foreign Affairs Chairman: Obama Turns His Back on U.S. Law, Cuban People

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) released the following statement after the Obama administration chose not to defend U.S. law pertaining to Cuba at the United Nations:

Today the Obama administration turned its back on U.S. law and the suffering Cuban people.  Worse yet – on a world stage – the administration allowed the Cuban regime to claim moral equivalence between its brutal rule and our democracy.  This is wrong, and it undermines Cubans fighting for basic freedoms. 

The fact is, under President Obama’s policies these past two years, the Castro regime’s human rights abuses have only worsened.  Democracy advocates have been attacked.  Thousands have been jailed because of their beliefs.  And the government continues to pocket as much as 95 percent of worker salaries at foreign-owned resorts.  Cubans are paid in funny money, if at all.

Existing law states that the economic embargo of Cuba will remain until there’s a government in Cuba that releases political prisoners and allows for free and fair elections.  The White House has an obligation to uphold and defend the law – whether it likes it or not.

Senator Cotton: Instead of Apologizing for America, Obama Should Stand for Cuban Freedom

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) today released the following statement after the United States abstained from a United Nations vote condemning the trade embargo on Cuba:

"Instead of enabling a vote against the U.S. embargo on Cuba, why didn't the Obama Administration offer its own UN resolution condemning the brutal kleptocracy of the Castro regime that keeps the Cuban people in poverty? Instead of spreading the Castros' propaganda that the U.S. embargo is at fault for Cuba's social and economic ills, why didn't Samantha Power point the finger at the Cuban police state that hoards all the spoils of the island's tourism industry and fails to leave even scraps for everyday Cuban men, women, and children? Instead of once again apologizing for America, why doesn't President Obama begin to stand up for American values, speak on behalf of the scores of political prisoners in Cuba's gulags, and demand an end to the Castro regime? Gone are the days when the United States acted as a beacon of principle at the United Nations that shed light on the hypocrisies, double-speak, and lies of that institution's rogues' gallery of dictatorships. We now have a UN ambassador and a president who actively-and shamefully-cheer them on."

Tweets of the Day: Ted Cruz v. Ben Rhodes on UN Vote

Must-Read: Obama’s Shameless Display in the UN

By Noah Rothman in Commentary Magazine:

Obama’s Shameless Display in the UN

In a body as reflexively anti-Western as the United Nations, it is no surprise that the United States often finds itself under attack. Previously, American representatives had the stomach to defend their country against those assaults. Apparently, those days are over.

Beginning in 2014, the Obama administration began to make good on that perennial liberal objective of normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba for no reason other than the perceived backwardness of its Cold War-era posture. Unilaterally and without reciprocity from Havana, Obama has spent the better part of the last two years unwinding American restrictions on trade and travel with the Communist island nation, insofar as he could without the consent of Congress.

There is, however, only so much Obama could do by himself. There are six active laws affirming restrictions on U.S. relations with Cuba, even including the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (which allows for expedited refugee status for Cubans who make it to U.S. soil even though air travel between the two nations has resumed). Surely, much of these laws no longer make sense in light of the new realities of Cuban-American relations ushered in by Obama, whether congressional Republicans like those realities or not.

Obama has leveraged Congress to bend to his will in a variety of ways, but the opposition-led legislature has so far refused to normalize relations with the repressive Cuban regime. Now, Obama is using a new tool to force the GOP to accept his new status quo: the United Nations.

In a radical reversal of policy, the United States abstained on Wednesday during a vote on a UN resolution calling for an end to the Cuban embargo. Israel, America’s stalwart ally in that body of autocrats and human rights abusers, joined with the United State in abstaining in a vote censuring it. The final tally was 191 with two abstentions in favor of condemning the United States of America.

In the eyes of the administration, this was no vote to condemn the United States; it was a vote to condemn the United States Congress and, specifically, the Republicans who run it. The White House couldn’t muster up the spirit to support the legitimacy of the co-equal legislative branch from denunciation by an unrepresentative global body, but only because the White House agrees with this rogues gallery more than it does its domestic GOP opponents. That is truly shameful.

Republicans have not held fast to the Cuban embargo out of some misplaced sense of nostalgia, as Obama glibly insists on the endless campaign tour that has been his second term in office. Much like the vaunted rapprochement with Iran has failed to compel the Mullahs to moderate their radicalism and join the community of nations, the Castro brothers have only responded to Obama’s overtures by cracking down on the Cuban people.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights noted that Havana made 8,616 politically-motivated arrests in 2015, an increase of nearly 1,200 from the year prior. This is not despite but because of the sudden influx of American tourism dollars and direct cultural exchanges with this prison nation’s northern neighbors. There has been no progress on repatriating fugitives from U.S. justice still living in Cuba and no effort to force Havana to back down from its demand of reparations from the U.S.

There is a case to be made that Congress believes it is standing up for the Cuban people in keeping the screws on the Castros as tight as possible, but it’s a case the Obama administration resents. And for Obama, politics never stopped at the waters’ edge. If Republicans can be embarrassed by the UN, then so be it.

It is lamentable that the Obama administration does not see that it has a responsibility to defend Americans with whom they disagree. It is not, however, surprising. That kind of divisiveness has characterized the entire Obama presidency. Here’s hoping his successor will not emulate behavior so unbecoming in an American commander-in-chief.

Statement on Obama's Failure to Defend U.S. Law at United Nations #Cuba

Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Today, the Obama Administration has chosen to abstain from a resolution presented by the Cuban dictatorship at the United Nations General Assembly condemning the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 ("Libertad Act"), which codified the embargo into U.S. law.

Regardless of the Obama Administration's views on sanctions towards Cuba, the Libertad Act was passed by the United States Congress pursuant to Article I of the Constitution of the United States. It is the law of the land.

This unprecedented failure by President Obama to defend U.S. law at the United Nations General Assembly marks perhaps the most egregious breach of his Constitutional responsibilities and oath of office.

We call on both presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to condemn this affront on the rule of law.

Must-Read: Cuba, Iran's Island in the Sun

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
By Emanuele Ottolenghi in The Hill:

Cuba, Iran's island in the sun

The Obama administration thinks Iran's influence in Latin America is waning. That means it does not view the 80 or so cultural centers Iran has established across Central and South America as a threat.

Tehran begs to differ. It views these centers as a vehicle for the spread of its revolutionary ideology to America's backyard. Iran's official state visits, diplomatic agreements, commercial relations and volume of trade with the region do not come out to much. Far more important to the ayatollahs are the thousands of Latin American converts who, thanks to the centers' missionary work, flock to the regime-run Al Mostafa International University in Qom each year for indoctrination.

Cuba is the most recent and unlikely addition to Iran's growing network of missionary centers. In the last three years, Iran has established a Shiite cultural center and a mosque in Havana that is actively recruiting and converting Cubans. Many of its converts have already traveled to Iran, including one who is training as the first Cuban-born Shiite cleric.

Iran wants to preserve and expand this operation, especially now that Havana has relations with the United States.

So far, Iran has only won over a handful of people: Havana's Shiite community amounts to no more than 70 members so far. But far more important than the numbers is the fact that the community exists at all: Communist Cuba is not exactly a haven for religious freedom and proselytism is forbidden.

Regardless, Iran says that the Shiite center on the island was established with the full knowledge and blessings of Cuban authorities. Given that there was no Shiite community on the island before Iran began proselytizing, Iran could not have made inroads with the communist regime in Havana under the pretext of serving local Muslims.

Iran came in to proselytize and the Castro government let them in.

The importance Iran attaches to Cuba explains Iran's high-profile visits there in recent months — its foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, travelled there in August, and President Hassan Rouhani in September.

Moreover, the man in charge of guiding the island's small Shiite community is the Argentinian-born Shiite Edgardo Ruben (aka Soheil) Assad. According to Joseph Humire, an expert of Iran's Latin America activities, Assad is reportedly Iran's "informal ambassador" to the whole Latin American region.

At a February 2015 congressional hearing, Humire described Assad as Iran's "primary agent of influence in Latin America" and as a "disciple" of Mohsen Rabbani, the Iranian Shiite cleric implicated in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

Rabbani, who at the time served as cultural attache at the local Iranian embassy, originally moved to Argentina in 1983 to serve as a cleric to Argentina's Shiite community. He began Iran's proselytizing mission to Latin America while in Buenos Aires, recruiting individuals who today are deeply involved with Iran's missionary spread in the region.

Today, Rabbani is no longer able to travel due to the Interpol red notice against him for his involvement in the 1994 terror attack. But he still pulls strings from Qom, where he serves as personal representative of Iran's supreme leader to Latin America and teacher at Al Mostafa. Assad also does his bidding. When not in Latin America on his missionary trips, Assad trains Latin American students at Al Mostafa — likely under Rabbani's guidance.

The younger and the older clerics share the view that Latin America is fertile ground for the penetration of Iran's revolutionary message. And the regime gives them full political cover and financial resources to pursue this mission.

Iran is openly bragging about its missionary work in Cuba. In February 2014, Iran's Spanish-language Latin American network, Hispan TV, produced a short clip about a group of local converts visiting Iran under the auspices of a cultural institute run by Rabbani for the anniversary of the Iranian revolution. One of them was a Cuban.

In May of this year, Iran's state TV aired a documentary on Assad's life and missionary work. The 45-minute documentary revealed the existence of a Shiite center based in Havana and showed Assad in Havana and with his Cuban students in Qom.

Hispan TV is also broadcasting a documentary series featuring Assad and his work in Latin America. Two chapters are devoted to Cuba.

And in August, state TV again featured Assad in a 40-minute interview, which included a lengthy discussion of the challenges of spreading Islam in Cuba.

Cuban converts interviewed by Hispan TV are circumspect about the center's goals. They tread dangerous ground, having to reckon with Cuban intelligence while also doing Tehran's bidding. Assad addressed this challenge when he acknowledged the recent decision by Cuban authorities to deny him entry, when his most recent trip coincided with President Obama's brief visit to Cuba in March.

Assad and his TV host subsequently said that the denial may have come at Washington's request, and with Havana's approval. But that is unlikely: Iranian-backed Islamic centers flourish across the region, no obstacles from local authorities and barely a word of concern from the Department of State.

That's a mistake. Iran's converts are as radical in their version of Islam and their hatred for the West as those radicalized by Sunni extremists like al Qaeda or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Tehran sees them as the vanguard of its Islamic revolution in America's own backyard.

Washington, for once, should take Iran at its words.

Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

After Podesta Revelation, Cuba's MCL Renews Call for Investigation of Paya's Death

Statement from Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement ('MCL'), pursuant to an email revelation by former White House official and Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta, that its leader, Oswaldo Paya, was indeed murdered by the Castro regime.

MCL Statement on Email of John Podesta, Campaign Manager for Hillary Clinton

"The truth will set them in solidarity with our freedom"

In a July 2015 email disseminated by Wikileaks, John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton states that, "Yes. Oswaldo Paya. The Cuban government forced him off the road and killed him almost certainly."

For this very important person, also linked to the administration of President Obama and now the Democratic presidential nominee, to make this statement indicates that in the upper echelons of power in the United States they have evidence or details to affirm it.

The Christian Liberation Movement from the outset revealed a text message that read, "Angel says that a vehicle forced us off the road," sent by Aron Modig, who was traveling with Paya and Angel Carromero, as a passenger in the vehicle that suffered the attack.

Since then, we have divulged all of the details that we have about this tragedy and have called for an independent investigation to clarify what happened. Not only the United States government, but the governments of Spain, Sweden and many foreign ministries have information about what occurred on July 22nd, 2012 on the road from Bayamo.

We hope that whoever wins the election will demand and directly support an independent investigation into the death of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero and to support our platform, "One Cuban, One Vote," so that the pursuit for freedom that Oswaldo and Harold lived and died for can reach Cuba through the sovereign will of the people. That is how democracies can have a relationship of total solidarity with Cuba, which also includes all of us Cubans who do not have rights.

Rubio: Past 24 Hours Reveal New Dangers Of Obama's Cuba Concessions

Rubio: Past 24 Hours Have Revealed New Dangers Of Obama's Cuba Concessions

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement regarding new, previously unannounced revelations involving President Obama's concessions to the Cuban regime:

"Over the past 24 hours, we've learned the Obama Administration has entered into an intelligence-sharing agreement with the Castro regime. This makes absolutely no sense, considering Cuba's intelligence agencies actively work to endanger American lives by stealing our military and national security secrets and selling them to Iran, North Korea, Russia and China. At a time when Russia is actively trying to influence elections in the U.S. the Obama Administration is saying it's going to make nice with the very same Cuban intelligence agencies whose number one mission is to steal classified information from our government and recruit spies in the U.S. This is one more piece of the sad, dangerous legacy of President Obama’s appeasement-based foreign policy, which is likely to ensure the longstanding survival of one-party communist rule in Cuba.

Beyond that, we've also learned the Obama Administration is extending its economic concessions and giving new opportunities to practically every member of the Cuban regime – even if they’re one of the official neighborhood informants that intimidates and reports on the activities of ordinary Cuban citizens; even if they get paid to participate in organized mobs and intimidate and physically assault Cuban dissidents, including the Ladies in White; even if they’re a rank and file member of the Cuban police and security forces that carry out the beatings and arbitrary arrests of government opponents; and even if they work in Cuba's state-run media, where publishing character assassinations and libel‎ and colluding in government cover-ups like the state-sponsored murder of Oswaldo Paya are all a routine part of the job.

When the Obama Administration announced these new regulations last week, the media and the American public were led to believe this was all about Cuban cigars and rum.‎ Yes, this is about the trafficking of products derived from properties stolen from Americans, but it's much more than that. The Obama Administration did not include some of the most significant changes in its public or private descriptions of the announcement, suggesting a deliberate attempt to hide them from the American people. These Obama concessions to the Cuban regime jeopardize America's national security and are demoralizing to the Cuban people on the island who fight daily for freedom and a better future. They are demoralizing to people of Cuban descent residing in the U.S. who have been victims of the Cuban regime and are now learning the Obama Administration is legitimizing and essentially pardoning their tormentors."

Background on these previously undisclosed Obama Administration concessions:

The Obama Administration has narrowed the definition of prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba removing Ministers and Vice-ministers, members of the Council of State; members and employees of the National Assembly of People's Power; members of any provincial assembly; local sector chiefs of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution; Director Generals and sub-Director Generals and higher of all Cuban ministries and state agencies; employees of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); employees of the Ministry of Defense (MINFAR); secretaries and first secretaries of the Confederation of Labor of Cuba (CTC) and its component unions; chief editors, editors, and deputy editors of Cuban state-run media organizations and programs, including newspapers, television, and radio; and members and employees of the Supreme Court (Tribuno Supremo Nacional). The ‎new definition now ‎only includes members of the Council of Ministers and flag officers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

The Obama Administration has also narrowed the definition of the Cuban Communist Party removing members of the Central Committee, Department Heads of the Central Committee, employees of the Central Committee, and secretaries and first secretaries of the provincial Party central committees. The definition now only includes members of the Politburo.

These changes now allows persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in transactions with these previously prohibited individuals to receive remittances, for telecommunication services and transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers in paper or electronic format (collectively, “written publications”).

Obama's Cuba Policy Creating A Surge Of Cuban Migrants

From NPR:

Improved U.S.-Cuba Relations Are Creating A Surge Of Cuban Migrants

U.S. Coast Guard vessels in Key West, Fla. Most of their resources in Key West are devoted to interdicting Cuban migrants. Cubans are trying to reach the U.S. in larger numbers, concerned that preferential treatment will disappear as the two countries normalize relations.

You might assume that with the thawing of relations between Cuba and the U.S., Cubans would see positive change at home, and less reason to attempt the perilous water crossing to Florida. You'd assume wrong.

U.S. law enforcement authorities are confronting a surge of Cuban migrants trying to make the journey by boat across the Florida Straits; it's the highest numbers they've seen in two decades.

"It's gotten busier and busier," says U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jeff Janszen, commander of sector Key West, Fla.

Over the past fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted 5,396 Cuban migrants who were attempting the crossing. That's nearly twice the number from the previous year. About 1,000 Cubans managed to evade detection and make it to U.S. shores.