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 American citizens.

• 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 cause.”

• 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.
2) Ibid.

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