SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM
Jaime Suchlicki, Director, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American
Studies, University of Miami
Iran, Cuba and Venezuela have developed a close and cooperative
relationship against the U.S. and in support of terrorism. The three
regimes increasingly coordinate their policies and resources in a
three way partnership aimed at counteracting and circumventing U.S.
policies in the Middle East and Latin America. Within this
relationship, Cuba plays a strategic role in terms of geography (proximity
to the U.S.), intelligence gathering (both electronic eavesdropping
and human espionage) and logistics.
Worrisome to the U.S. are reports that “have uncovered covert
operations between Cuba and Iran in the development and testing of
electromagnetic weapons that have the capacity to disrupt
telecommunication networks, cut power supplies and damage
sophisticated computers.” (1) Furthermore, Cuba can easily provide
Iran with valuable information from its sophisticated espionage
apparatus. Iran is also able to obtain information on biotechnology
from Cuba. In the late 1990s, Cuba began “transferring (licensing)
both its medical biotechnologies and, along with the technical
know-how, implicit capabilities to develop and manufacture
industrial quantities of biological weapons,” creating a significant
security threat for the United States and Israel. (2)
In addition to its proven technical prowess to interfere and
intercept U.S. telecommunications, Cuba has deployed around the
world a highly effective human intelligence network. The type of
espionage carried out by Ana Belén Montes, the senior U.S. defense
intelligence analyst who spied for Cuba during some 16 years until
her arrest in 2001, has enabled the Castro regime to amass a wealth
of intelligence on U.S. vulnerabilities as well as a keen
understanding of the inner-workings of the U.S. security system.
Such information and analysis was provided to Saddam Hussein prior
to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and would undoubtedly be provided to a
strategic ally like Iran. While one may argue that factors such as
Iran’s limited military capabilities and sheer distance diminish any
conventional concerns, one should expect that Tehran, in case of a
U.S.-Iran conflict would launch an asymmetrical offensive against
the U.S. and its European allies through surrogate terrorist states
and paramilitary organizations. In such a scenario, Cuban
intelligence would be invaluable to Iran and its proxies and Cuban
territory could be used by terrorist groups to launch operations
against the U.S.
In more specific terms:
• Cuba directly and through Venezuela continues to provide
intelligence to Hamas and Hezbollah.
• Ghazi Nasr al Din, one of the most important representatives of
Hezbollah in Venezuela, has maintained close contact with Venezuelan
government officials and most likely with Cuban officials.
• Current and former member of Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA),
a Basque terrorist organization continue to reside in Cuba. While
some of these terrorists are on the island as part of an accord
between the Cuban and Spanish governments, others are hiding in
Cuba, fugitives of Spanish justice.
• The FBI estimates that Cuba has provided safe harbor to dozens of
fugitives from U.S. justice who live on the island under the
protection of the Castro regime. Some of these fugitives are charged
with or have been convicted of murder, kidnapping, and hijacking,
and they include notorious killers of police officers in New Jersey
and New Mexico.
• Warranting special mention are the outstanding U.S. indictments
against Cuban Air Force pilots Lorenzo Alberto Pérez-Pérez and
General Rubén Martínez Puente, the head of the Cuban Air Force, who
in 1996 ordered these Cuban pilots to shoot down two unarmed
civilian American aircraft over international waters in the Florida
Straits. That act of terrorism killed four men, three of them
• On March 4, 2013, the 44th Anniversary of the founding of the
“Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” an Iranian
supported organization, the Cuban Ambassador to Lebanon, Rene
Ceballo Prats, reaffirmed “Cuba’s firm support for the Palestinian
• The previous year, in March 2012, a delegation of the Front headed
by Abu Sami Marwan, visited Cuba at the invitation of Cuba’s
Communist Party. Jose R. Balaguer, head of Cuba’s party
International Department expressed “the support and solidarity of
Havana with the Palestinian cause.” Another Cuban official
emphasized “Cuba’s support for the Palestinian struggle to establish
an independent state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.”
In an attempt to obtain unilateral concession from the U.S., Gen.
Raul Castro’s regime has toned down some of the violent anti-U.S.
propaganda of older brother Fidel. Yet the commitments and
interrelationships with anti-American terrorist groups have not
disappeared. They have taken a more sophisticated approach; many
times using proxies such as Venezuelan supporters.
The U.S. should do well to remain alert and vigilant. Cuba’s
proximity to the U.S. makes the island an ideal platform for hostile
acts against the U.S. In the event of conflict with Iran and/or
North Korea, two allies of Cuba, the Castro regime may be called
upon to support its allies.
1) Suchlicki, Jaime. “The Cuba-Venezuela Challenge to Hemispheric
Security: Implications for the United States.” Challenges to
Security in the Hemisphere Task Force. University of Miami, Center
for Hemispheric Policy. December 3, 2009.