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The Iran-Cuba Axis By: Frederick W. Stakelbeck
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, January 18, 2006


In a letter to then Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev regarding his role in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro reflected upon the possible use of nuclear weapons during the U.S.-Soviet confrontation, “It was my opinion that, in case of an American invasion [Cuba], a massive and total nuclear strike would have to be launched.” Given Castro’s affection for nuclear weapons, it should come as no surprise to observers that the aging terrorist has befriended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Just last week, Ahmadinejad, a recognized anti-Semite and human rights violator, threatened unspecified retaliation against the West unless it recognized his own country’s nuclear ambitions. “If they want to deny us our right, we have ways to secure those rights,” he said in Tehran.

Given Castro and Ahmadinejad’s mutual distaste for the U.S. and Western-styled democracy, increased bilateral cooperation between the two countries presents serious national security concerns for the U.S. This month, Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani noted the importance of expanding Tehran-Havana relations saying both countries must come together to confront unilateralism of “the big power” -- an obvious reference to the U.S.

 

In the past year, Rafsanjani has noted Iran’s desire to play a role in meeting the “technical and engineering requirements” of Cuba and other states in Latin America. Rafsanjani has also called Castro, “An impressive character in contemporary history,” praising the Cuban leader for his resistance to the “hegemonic policies of the U.S. and anti-imperialism.” Not surprisingly, Cuban Ambassador to Iran Fernando Garcia pledged his country’s support for Iran’s right to use nuclear energy earlier this month.

 

In a disquieting development, Castro visited Tehran in November where he given sacred Islamic texts in Spanish and was invited by Iran’s religious leadership to convert to Islam. “We spoke to Castro for several hours and I think we even almost managed to convince him to convert to Islam,” said one source close to the meeting. “Castro is certain that the Cuban people are suffering from a lack of spiritually, and seems interested in Islam, above all the writings of Iranian leader Khomeini,” the source said.

 

But Castro’s initial interest in Islam actually surfaced many years ago. Shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini’s followers drove the Shah into exile in 1979, Castro dispatched Cuban envoys to Tehran to rekindle bilateral relations, professing his admiration for the “revolutionary role of Islam.”

 

The thoughts of an Islamic terrorist state located 90 miles off of the Florida coast are enough to keep President George Bush up for weeks.

 

Before his most recent trip to Tehran, Castro met with Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenehi in 2001. At that time, both leaders agreed that together they could topple the U.S. “hand in hand.” Afterward, Castro said he left Tehran with “unforgettable memories,” while Iranian president Mohammad Khatami fondly noted, “The more one befriends Mr. Castro, the more one becomes interested in him.”

 

Bilateral cooperation in the area of biotechnology research and production and the transfer of Cuban biological and chemical know-how to Iranian institutions, continue to attract Washington’s attention. Of course, Castro has rejected allegations of involvement with Iran in the manufacture of biological and chemical weapons, saying that joint operations are instead devoted to eradicating hunger and disease on the impoverished island.

 

In addition to biotechnology cooperation, Iran has used Cuba’s electronic transmissions jamming expertise and the Chinese equipped electronic warfare base near Havana, to interfere with U.S. sponsored pro-democracy broadcasts into Tehran. Intelligence reports over the past year have also uncovered covert cooperation between the two countries in the development and testing of electromagnetic weapons that have the capacity to disrupt telecommunication networks, cut power supplies and damage sophisticated computers. During a time of international crisis, these “e-bombs” can be delivered by cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles or aerial bombs to the U.S. mainland. Russian, Chinese and Iranian scientists are currently working side-by-side with Cuban scientists to develop these weapons for eventual use against the U.S. communications and military infrastructure.

 

Finally, like other nations in the Western Hemisphere, Cuba has become increasingly dependent on Iranian oil for its daily survival. A cash-strapped Castro has already accepted a generous Iranian trade credit line with liberal repayment terms. In return, Castro has agreed to provide Iran with a strategic outpost to gather intelligence on U.S. movements in the region.

 

Fears are beginning to grow that Ahmadinejad sees himself as a modern day Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire, who called himself “King of Iran and beyond” -- a torch bearer of an Islamic world revolution and ordained leader of a revitalized Middle East. Rich with abundant energy resources and emboldened by powerful allies such as Russia and China, Tehran will continue to make a determined push in the Western Hemisphere. The possibility of a rogue nation such as Iran offering nuclear technology to friendly nations based upon preconceived prejudices, common religious or ideological differences or temporary alliances, makes the Castro-Ahmadinejad relationship even more dangerous for the U.S.

 

To address emerging national security concerns related to the Cuba-Iran relationship, the U.S. must first recognize the existence of dangerous regional and global anti-U.S. alliances. Second, Washington must announce to the American people and the world what it sees as a concerted effort by certain countries such as Cuba and Iran, to actively foster strategic alliances designed to undermine U.S. democratic world authority. In this regard, top U.S. diplomat to Havana Michael Parmly’s courageous comments last month condemning Castro’s use of what he termed “Brown Shirts” to assault government dissidents was right on the mark.

 

Third, influential nations such as Mexico, Columbia, Brazil and Argentina must be persuaded that it is in their best interests to assume key roles in the fight against a new breed of “leftist revolutionaries” such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Eva Morales, both of whom now threaten to poison significant parts of Latin America. Finally, U.S. political, economic, intelligence and military assets should be mobilized to address the expanding “quiet war” that Iran, Cuba and others are so deftly waging in the Western Hemisphere without a hint of reprisal from the U.S.

 

The result of this several-tiered U.S. foreign policy will not be global hegemony; rather, it will be the deployment of a revised “Monroe Doctrine” to address the Cuba-Iran alliance and other emerging threats to the U.S. that may arise in the near future. 

 

For decades, Soviet defense, economic and intelligence assistance allowed Fidel Castro’s Cuba to project its own brand of Stalinism throughout Latin America resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. More recently, the Chinese menace has identified Cuba as a “prize” in the game of global strategic positioning. Now Iran, a U.S. antagonist, sponsor of terror and weapons proliferator is attempting to solidify its grip on Cuba.

 

To ensure a safe future for our nation, Washington must recognize the “gathering storm” on our borders and take action in our hemisphere against tyrants such as Castro and Ahmadinejad who so frequently attack freedom, peace and democracy.

 

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Fred Stakelbeck is a Senior Asia Fellow with Washington-based Center for Security Policy. He is an expert on the economic and national security implications for the U.S. of China's emerging regional and global strategic influence. Comments can be forwarded to Frederick.Stakelbeck@verizon.net.


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