The Trump White House has on multiple foreign policy fronts of late attempted to “box in” the incoming Biden administration – limiting its ability to roll back Trump policies – particularly on Iran and China.
President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are now poised to do the same on Cuba. This after it’s been widely reported in the past weeks that Biden’s team will seek for greater ‘normalized’ relations with the communist-run Caribbean country, which would involve rolling back current restrictions on travel, investment, and remittances.
The New York Times has cited two US officials in a report Tuesday who say the US is preparing to once again place Cuba on the state sponsor of terrorism list.
Cuba had been formally delisted under Obama in 2015 during his attempt at rapprochement, which also saw a number of sanctions briefly removed.
A proposal for a return to naming Cuba as a ‘state sponsor’ has reportedly been prepared under the aegis of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, but for it to actually go through insiders say that the Counterterrorism Bureau would have to sign off.
The other major hurdle would be the timeline, given the Trump admin is now running out of time to push it through, as CNN underscores:
Whether Pompeo will approve the plan remains unknown, but a Biden administration reversal of the move could take months, the Times reported. Designation as a state sponsor of terrorism can trigger sanctions including “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions,” according to the State Department.
But the problem could go the other way too, as The Hill on Wednesday notes of the original NYT report, “While Biden could quickly move to remove Cuba from the list upon taking office, the Times reported that this could require a months-long formal review process.”
Confirmed: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is looking to designate Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in the coming days, complicating Biden’s intentions of engaging with Havana, and once again working to erase a key Obama policy. Story coming.
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) December 30, 2020
But this appears part of the Trump strategy to begin with: create enough massive hurdles for Biden with weeks just left as to disrupt plans to continue Obama’s policy of restored normalized relations.
Previously any positive gains in restoring relations under Obama, which included the US embassy’s reopening in Havana in 2015, were reversed when in 2017 Trump barred Americans from traveling to Cuba and other punitive economic measures.