The organising group, the TWR True Religion has been banned.
It is thought to have several hundred members, and is believed to have recruited some 140 young people to fight in Syria.
Its leader, the Palestinian-born Ibrahim Abou-Nagie who lived in Germany for 30 years, is now believed to be based in Malaysia and setting up a new group there. Germany tried to prosecute him in 2012, but failed.
The raids were on mosques, offices and private homes, and was the biggest operation of its type since the 2001 shutdown of the Kalifatstaat extremist group.
“With today’s ban we are giving a clear signal. There is no place in our society for radical extremists who are willing to use violence. Here, we are drawing a clear line to also be able to protect the peaceful Islam in Germany,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
Germany has banned five other organisations accused of having Islamic extremist-jihadi aspirations since 2012, but De Maiziere stressed the ban was on the group and its propaganda, not the distribution of the Koran in general or translations of it.
Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, said the government had banned the True Religion organization, which is also known as Read (as in the instruction to read the Quran), because it acted as a “collecting pool” for would-be Islamist fighters.
Starting on Tuesday morning, officers raided 190 premises in more than half of Germany’s 16 states. Materials were secured, but there were no detentions, Mr. de Maizière said.
“The organization brings Islamic jihadists together under the pretext of the harmless distribution of the Quran,” Mr. de Maizière told reporters in Berlin, stressing that the authorities were acting against the group because of its work to foster violence, not because of its faith. “A systematic curtailment of our rule of law has nothing to do with the alleged freedom of religion,” he said.
The move comes after months of surveillance of the organization, whose bushy-bearded members have become a common sight in pedestrian shopping areas in major German cities. Mr. de Maizière said that 140 of the group’s supporters are known to have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.
The move comes a week after the authorities arrested five men who were accused of aiding the Islamic State in Germany by recruiting members and providing financial and logistical help.
The True Religion is the sixth Islamist organization to be banned in Germany since 2012, under an effort to ensure domestic security and to prevent radicalized young people from leaving the country to fight for extremists abroad.
Germany has been gripped by a wave of small-scale terrorist attacks this year, including three that were claimed by the Islamic State: the knifing of a policeman in February, an ax attack by a young refugee, and a suicide bombing, both in July. (The only deaths in those assaults were those of the attackers.)
Most of the nearly one million migrants and refugees who arrived in Germany last year were Muslims. Security officials have been concerned that those who become frustrated or disillusioned at the difficulty of starting a new life in Europe could provide fertile ground for radical Islamists seeking to recruit members.
The campaign to hand out the Qurans to passers-by was the idea of Ibrahim Abou-Nagie, a Palestinian who preaches a conservative brand of Islam known as Salafism. German security officials said he was not in Germany at the time of the raids. Mr. de Maizière declined to comment on Mr. Abou-Nagie’s possible whereabouts.
Mr. Abou-Nagie, who has lived in Germany for more than 30 years, has been on the radar of German security officials since 2005, when he set up a website that officials say spreads extremist propaganda. An attempt to prosecute Mr. Abou-Nagie in 2012 on charges of incitement of religious hatred failed.
Even as they are carrying out a sweeping effort to prevent radical Muslims from committing terrorist acts, the German authorities are also working to stop violence by far-right extremists. There was a 42 percent increase in the number of violent acts committed by the far right in 2015, according to the country’s domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
“The aim of the organization was to carry out explosive attacks on shelters for asylum seekers, as well as homes, offices and automobiles of political dissidents,” the prosecutors said in a statement. “Through these actions, the suspects wanted to create an atmosphere of fear and repression.”
Others from the group are already facing charges, including attempted murder, carrying out an explosion and vandalism, over a series of attacks that began in late July 2015 and continued through November of that year. Those assaults involved lobbing explosives at the offices of the Left Party and at a refugee shelter in Freital.
Congressman Ellison has introduced several pieces of legislation that have never advanced.
Washington (CNN)Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress and one of only two members in the Capitol, said Wednesday that in the wake of anti-Muslim rhetoric after the Paris attacks, Muslims are feeling a need to assert even more how patriotic they are.The Minnesota Democrat said when he hears other lawmakers suggesting Christian Syrian refugees should be allowed into the country but Muslim Syrian refugees should not, it reminds him that the First Amendment to the Constitution establishes freedom of religion. More here.
Who is Keith Ellison? Left-wing congressman with past ties to Nation of Islam wants DNC job
FNC: In an attempt to stave off a civil war in the ranks, Democratic leaders are scrambling to unite behind a candidate for the party’s chairmanship – and have landed for now on a Louis Farrakhan-linked congressman who once called for Dick Cheney’s impeachment and compared George W. Bush to Hitler.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress and a leading progressive among House Democrats, already has picked up the backing of both the Democratic Party’s left – with support from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – and its establishment, receiving endorsements from Senate leaders Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and retiring Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Ellison is firmly on the party’s left – he has a fax line in his office, but his website says they will not respond to faxes “for environmental reasons.” He backed Bernie Sanders during the primaries, even introducing him at the convention.
“Bernie sparked the beginning of a revolution y’all,” Ellison said at his address during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “Together we call for climate justice, racial justice, wage justice.”
Sanders has given strong backing to Ellison in return, sending out a fundraising email saying an Ellison-led Democratic Party that will stand up to Wall Street greed and corporate America is “the Democratic Party we need.”
Ellison is expected to formally announce his bid Monday. On Sunday, Ellison hinted he would run and said the party needs to focus on middle- and working-class Americans and less on donors.
“I love the donors and we thank them, but it has to be that the guys in the barber shop, the lady at the diner, the folks who are worried about whether that plant is going to close, they’ve got to be our focus,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Some strategists feel this economic message is exactly what the party needs to reach out to white working-class voters who pulled the lever for Trump.
“You can’t stand up for middle-class families if you are so closely associated with Wall Street and I think that was the issue with Clinton, her ties to Goldman Sachs, and I think that’s shown by how much money we raised from Wall Street,” Brad Bannon, Democratic strategist and CEO of Bannon Communications Research, told FoxNews.com. “We have to become more oriented to working-class families if we’re going to survive and prosper, because we blew the industrial Midwest.”
However, Ellison’s past associations and comments may trouble more moderate voters.
Ellison’s 2006 run for his seat was plunged into controversy after the conservative PowerLineBlog.com found he had once identified with Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and in 1998 was referring to himself as Keith X Ellison and Keith Ellison-Muhammed.
The Washington Post reported that Ellison had defended Farrakhan against accusations of anti-Semitism in 1989 and in 1990 had called affirmative action a “sneaky” form of compensation for slavery, calling instead for reparations.
When the controversy erupted in 2006, Ellison acknowledged he had worked with the group, but only for 18 months to help organize Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March. He distanced himself from both Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, and said he hadn’t scruitinized the group’s anti-Semitic positions appropriately.
“They were and are anti-Semitic, and I should have come to that conclusion earlier than I did,” he said.
Yet it isn’t the only controversy for Ellison. In 2007, Ellison made a comparison between Bush and 9/11 to Hitler and the 1933 Reichstag fire.
“9/11 is the juggernaut in American history and it allows… it’s almost like, you know, the Reichstag fire,” Ellison said, according to a Daily Telegraph report at the time. “After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader of that country [Hitler] in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”
He later clarified that he did indeed believe that Usama bin Laden was responsible for the terror attacks. But it wasn’t the only controversy for Ellison in 2007, as he also backed a movement to impeach then-Vice President Dick Cheney over his alleged fabrication of intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
However, Bannon believes that Ellison’s Muslim heritage could be a boost not a burden, especially in light of Trump’s elevation Sunday of controversial Breitbart boss Steve Bannon to chief strategist.
“[Steve] Bannon propagates Muslim conspiracy theories,” Brad Bannon, who is not related to the Breitbart head, said. “Ellison is the perfect guy to counter that. Ellison is exactly what we need to prove we aren’t the party of hate and racism.”
Ellison would have competition for the job. Former DNC chairman and ex-presidential candidate Howard Dean has put his name in the running. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malle
y also said he’s considering a run.
Islamist Money in Politics, Donations from Individuals Associated with American Islamist Groups
Recipient Name: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
“Hillary Clinton Accepts Cash From CAIR, Leads 2016 List of Islamist Donations,” by John Hayward, Breitbart, October 27, 2016:
The Middle East Forum’s “Islamist Money in Politics” project compiles an annual list of politicians who receive campaign contributions from Islamist groups and “individuals who subscribe to the same Islamic supremacism as Khomeini, Bin Laden, and ISIS.”
The top-ranking recipient in the 2015-2016 list is Hillary Clinton, who raked in $41,165 from prominent Islamists, says the report:
This includes $19,249 from senior officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), declared a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates on November 15, 2014. For example, Mrs. Clinton has accepted $3,900 from former CAIR vice-chairman Ahmad Al-Akhras, who has defended numerous Islamists in Ohio indicted – and later convicted – on terrorism charges.
The top ten list includes nine Democrats, one independent (who just happens to have been Clinton’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders) and zero Republicans.
Donald Trump received no Islamist money, and neither did Libertarian Gary Johnson. Jill Stein of the Green Party accepted $250 in such donations.
“While the amounts of Islamist donations are relatively small, the information: (1) holds politicians accountable for accepting funds from soiled sources; (2) signals the Islamist lobby’s affections and intentions; and (3) tells voters who takes money from individuals linked to enemies of the United States and its allies,” the Middle East Forum argues.
CAIR is closely entwined with Islamists and with jihadis that court documents and news reports show that at least five of its people — either board members, employees or former employees — have been jailed or repatriated for various financial and terror-related offenses.Breitbart has also published evidence highlighted by critics showing that CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Texas-based criminal effort to deliver $12 million to the Jew-hating HAMAS jihad group, that CAIR was founded with $490,000 from HAMAS, and that the FBI bans top-level meetings with CAIR officials. “The FBI policy restricting a formal relationship with CAIR remains … [but] does not preclude communication regarding investigative activity or allegations of civil rights violations,” said an Oct. 2015 email from FBI spokesman Christopher Allen.
In 2009, a federal judge concluded that “the government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR… with Hamas.”
H. R. 5931, a bill in Congress is designed to stop all future payments of any sort to Iran.
Senator Grassley’s letter to Loretta Lynch demanding answers to 5 questions is here.
Congress: Attorney General
Lynch ‘Pleads Fifth’ on Secret Iran ‘Ransom’ Payments
Obama admin blocking congressional probe into cash payments to Iran
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is declining to comply with an investigation by leading members of Congress about the Obama administration’s secret efforts to send Iran $1.7 billion in cash earlier this year, prompting accusations that Lynch has “pleaded the Fifth” Amendment to avoid incriminating herself over these payments, according to lawmakers and communications exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) initially presented Lynch in October with a series of questions about how the cash payment to Iran was approved and delivered.
In an Oct. 24 response, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik responded on Lynch’s behalf, refusing to answer the questions and informing the lawmakers that they are barred from publicly disclosing any details about the cash payment, which was bound up in a ransom deal aimed at freeing several American hostages from Iran.
The response from the attorney general’s office is “unacceptable” and provides evidence that Lynch has chosen to “essentially plead the fifth and refuse to respond to inquiries regarding [her] role in providing cash to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” Rubio and Pompeo wrote on Friday in a follow-up letter to Lynch, according to a copy obtained by the Free Beacon.
The inquiry launched by the lawmakers is just one of several concurrent ongoing congressional probes aimed at unearthing a full accounting of the administration’s secret negotiations with Iran.
“It is frankly unacceptable that your department refuses to answer straightforward questions from the people’s elected representatives in Congress about an important national security issue,” the lawmakers wrote. “Your staff failed to address any of our questions, and instead provided a copy of public testimony and a lecture about the sensitivity of information associated with this issue.”
“As the United States’ chief law enforcement officer, it is outrageous that you would essentially plead the fifth and refuse to respond to inquiries,” they stated. “The actions of your department come at time when Iran continues to hold Americans hostage and unjustly sentence them to prison.”
The lawmakers included a copy of their previous 13 questions and are requesting that Lynch provide answers by Nov. 4.
When asked about Lynch’s efforts to avoid answering questions about the cash payment, Pompeo told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration has blocked Congress at every turn as lawmakers attempt to investigate the payments to Iran.
“Who knew that simple questions regarding Attorney General Lynch’s approval of billions of dollars in payments to Iran could be so controversial that she would refuse to answer them?” Pompeo said. “This has become the Obama administration’s coping mechanism for anything related to the Islamic Republic of Iran—hide information, obfuscate details, and deny answers to Congress and the American people.”
“They know this isn’t a sustainable strategy, however, and I trust they will start to take their professional, and moral, obligations seriously,” the lawmaker added.
In the Oct. 24 letter to Rubio and Pompeo, Assistant Attorney General Kadzik warned the lawmakers against disclosing to the public any information about the cash payment.
Details about the deal are unclassified, but are being kept under lock and key in a secure facility on Capitol Hill, the Free Beacon first disclosed. Lawmakers and staffers who have clearance to view the documents are forced to relinquish their cellular devices and are barred from taking any notes about what they see.
“Please note that these documents contain sensitive information that is not appropriate for public release,” Kadzik wrote to the lawmakers. “Disclosure of this information beyond members of the House and Senate and staff who are able to view them could adversely affect the diplomatic relations of the United States, including with key allies, as well as the State Department’s ability to defend [legal] claims against the United States [by Iran] that are still being litigated at the Hague Tribunal.”
“The public release of any portion of these documents, or the information contained therein, is not authorized by the transmittal of these documents or by this communication,” Kadzik wrote.
Congressional sources have told the Free Beacon that this is another part of the effort to hide details about these secret negotiations with Iran from the American public.
One senior congressional source familiar with both the secret documents and the inquiry into them told the Free Beacon that the details of the negotiations are so damning that the administration’s best strategy is to ignore lawmakers’ requests for more information.
“Every Obama administration official and department involved in the Iran Deal appear to be running for cover,” the source said. “Like we feared, the [Iran deal] is turning out to be a disaster and Iran is emboldened in its aggression. Evidently Attorney General Lynch and the Department of Justice have decided ‘refusal to cooperate’ is their best strategy. But this is dangerous and ultimately won’t protect them from anything.”
Update: The headline has been updated to more accurately characterize the story.
The deal – as well as the interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) – provided Iran with substantial economic relief that helped the regime avoid a severe economic crisis and return to a modest recovery path. The lifting of restrictions on Iran’s use of frozen overseas assets as part of the interim agreement returned about $11.9 billion to Iran. The final agreement provided Tehran with access to a further $100 billion, including over $50 billion in unencumbered, liquid cash, according to the Obama administration.2 These funds gave Tehran badly needed hard currency to settle its outstanding debts, begin to repair its economy, build up its diminished foreign exchange reserves, and ease a budgetary crisis, as well as providing the regime greater resources for the financing of terrorism and other illicit activities.
The nuclear deal did nothing to address the full range of Iran’s malign activities, including ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, regional destabilization, and human rights abuses. Iran also still owes American terrorism victims and their families more than $55 billion in unpaid, outstanding damages awarded by American courts. (…)
A key driver of these threats remains the Islamic Republic’s ability to bankroll and finance a host of terrorist groups, militias, and proxy forces throughout the Middle East,6 including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and designated Iraqi Shiite militias, as well expanding the existing asymmetric military capabilities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its elite Quds Force. Iran remains the world’s largest and most dangerous state sponsor of terrorism, according to President Obama’s State Department.7
Iran’s ability to access cash outside the formal banking system is crucial in supporting these activities. Tehran also cash for other malign activities that it aggressively supports: WMD procurement, missile and heavy weaponry procurement, as well as aid to the murderous regime of Bashir al-Assad in Syria, designated Shiite militias, the Houthis in Yemen, and other malign actors.
In part from CubaToday: Diaz-Balart, a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said Cuba shares intelligence with Russia and Iran, among others. Earlier this year, Gen. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Cuba was among four countries that pose the greatest espionage threat to the United States. The others were Russia, China and Iran.
“The threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and non-state, is persistent, complex and evolving,” Clapper testified in a February hearing on “Worldwide Threats.” “Targeting collection of U.S. political, military, economic and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated.”
Over the course of five decades, Fidel Castro built one of the world’s most active intelligence services, whose missions included spying on U.S. military facilities in South Florida and infiltrating leading Cuban exile organizations in Miami. More here.
Previously on this site, it was published that Cuba’s largest source of revenue is stealing and selling intelligence and secrets to enemies of the United States.
Now it appears, Barack Obama is not finished with his new friends in Cuba and handing off gifts to them.
Today, I approved a Presidential Policy Directive that takes another major step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. This Directive takes a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible. Read more here.
Presidential Policy Directive — United States-Cuba Normalization
October 14, 2016
SUBJECT: United States-Cuba Normalization
On December 17, 2014, I announced that the United States would chart a new course with Cuba, ending an outdated policy that had failed to advance U.S. interests and support reform and a better life for the Cuban people on the island over several decades. Under the new policy, the United States expands and promotes authorized engagements with Cuba to advance cooperation on areas of mutual interest, and increase travel to, commerce with, and the free flow of information to Cuba. The objective of the new policy is to help the Cuban people to achieve a better future for themselves and to encourage the development of a partner in the region capable of working with the United States to confront regional challenges, such as climate change, disease, and illicit trafficking.
Endogenous changes underway in Cuba offer opportunities to advance U.S. interests and shift away from an embargo, which is an outdated burden on the Cuban people and has impeded U.S. interests. My Administration has repeatedly called on the Congress to lift the embargo. United States policy is designed to create economic opportunities for the Cuban people; promote respect for human rights; further advances on regional security and defense issues, such as health, law enforcement, and migration; and pursue cooperation with the Cuban government that can strengthen our leadership in the hemisphere. We recognize Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination and acknowledge areas of difference. We seek to address such differences through engagement and dialogue, and by encouraging increased understanding between our governments and our peoples.
The large Cuban-American community in the United States has an integral role to play in normalization, and in reconciliation between members of the diaspora who left Cuba and those who remain on the island. Normalization necessarily extends beyond government-to-government rapprochement — it includes rebuilding bridges between individuals and families.
This directive: (1) describes the U.S. vision for normalization with Cuba and how our policy aligns with U.S. national security interests; (2) assesses progress toward normalization; (3) describes the current and foreseen strategic landscape; (4) describes priority objectives for normalization; and (5) directs actions required to implement this PPD.
II. Vision for United States-Cuba Normalization
The vision of the United States for U.S.-Cuba normalization is guided by the following national security interests, as described in the 2015 National Security Strategy:
- The security of the United States, its citizens, and U.S. allies and partners.
- A strong, innovative, and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic system that promotes opportunity and prosperity.
- Respect for universal values at home and around the world.
- A rules-based international order that promotes peace, security, and opportunity.
Our vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization reflects my Administration’s support for broad-based economic growth, stability, increased people-to-people ties, and respect for human rights and democratic values in the region. In the long-term, the United States seeks the following end-states:
1. Enhanced security of the United States and U.S. citizens at home and abroad. We seek to ensure U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba are safe and secure and the United States is protected from: those seeking to exploit increased connectivity for illicit ends, irregular migration, and natural or man-made hazards. Our policy advances bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including diplomatic, agricultural, public health, and environmental matters, as well as disaster preparedness and response, law enforcement, migration, and other security and defense topics. Our policy also supports increased cooperation with Cuba on regional initiatives on behalf of these interests.
2. A prosperous, stable Cuba that offers economic opportunities to its people. Increased travel and economic interconnectedness supports improved livelihoods for the Cuban people, deeper economic engagement between our two countries, as well as the development of a private sector that provides greater economic opportunities for the Cuban people. Efforts by the Cuban authorities to liberalize economic policy would aid these goals and further enable broader engagement with different sectors of the Cuban economy. United States policy helps U.S. businesses gain access to Cuban markets and encourages the sustainable growth of the Cuban economy. The U.S. private sector, scientific and medical researchers, agriculture industry, foundations, and other groups have new avenues for collaboration that can provide opportunities for Cuban entrepreneurs, scientists, farmers, and other professionals. At the same time, increased access to the internet is boosting Cubans’ connectivity to the wider world and expanding the ability of the Cuban people, especially youth, to exchange information and ideas. The United States is prepared to support Cuban government policies that promote social equality and independent economic activity.
3. Increased respect for individual rights in Cuba. Even as we pursue normalization, we recognize we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to speak out in support of human rights, including the rights to freedoms of expression, religion, association, and peaceful assembly as we do around the world. Our policy is designed to support Cubans’ ability to exercise their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the expectation that greater commerce will give a broader segment of the Cuban people the information and resources they need to achieve a prosperous and sustainable future. In pursuit of these objectives, we are not seeking to impose regime change on Cuba; we are, instead, promoting values that we support around the world while respecting that it is up to the Cuban people to make their own choices about their future.
4. Integration of Cuba into international and regional systems. We seek Cuban government participation in regional and international fora, including but not limited to, those related to the Organization of American States (OAS) and Summit of the Americas to advance mutually held member objectives. We believe that a Cuba that subscribes to the purposes and standards of such fora will benefit, over time, from bringing its domestic economic and political practices in line with international norms and globally accepted standards. Our policy strengthens the U.S. position in international systems by removing an irritant from our relationships with our allies and partners and gaining support for a rules-based order.
III. Progress Toward United States-Cuba Normalization
Since the United States announced on December 17, 2014, that it would chart a new course with Cuba, we have re-established diplomatic relations and have made progress toward the normalization of our bilateral relationship. We opened our respective embassies, six U.S. cabinet secretaries visited Havana, four Cuban ministers visited the United States, and I became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928. We established a Bilateral Commission to prioritize areas of engagement, and we concluded non-binding arrangements on environmental protection, marine sanctuaries, public health and biomedical research, agriculture, counternarcotics, trade and travel security, civil aviation, direct transportation of mail, and hydrography. We launched dialogues or discussions on law enforcement cooperation, regulatory issues, economic issues, claims, and internet and telecommunications policy.
Given Cuba’s proximity to the United States, increased engagement by U.S. citizens, companies, and the nongovernmental sector holds extraordinary promise for supporting our national interests. Bearing in mind the limits imposed by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic (LIBERTAD) Solidarity Act of 1996 (“Libertad Act”) and other relevant statutes, the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce implemented six packages of regulatory amendments to the Cuba sanctions program, easing restrictions on travel, trade, and financial transactions. United States individuals, firms, and nongovernmental organizations are availing themselves of these regulatory changes to visit Cuba, and authorized travel to Cuba increased by more than 75 percent from 2014 to 2015. Future U.S. citizen travel will be supported by scheduled air service, which began in August 2016, and the first U.S. cruise liner visited Cuban ports in May 2016. We also commenced direct transportation of mail between our two countries, and U.S. telecommunications firms established direct voice and roaming agreements with Cuba. For its part, the Cuban government has continued to pursue incremental economic reforms and launched more than 100 public Wi-Fi hotspots across the island.
These developments lay the foundation for long-term engagement with Cuba that advances U.S. interests. But we have a great deal more to do to build on that foundation based on a realistic assessment of the strategic landscape surrounding normalization.
IV. Strategic Landscape
Cuba is experiencing several transitions in areas such as leadership, the economy, technological development, civil society, and regional and global integration. Cuba’s leaders recognize the need to transition to the next generation, but they prioritize gradual, incremental changes to ensure stability.
Cuba has important economic potential rooted in the dynamism of its people, as well as a sustained commitment in areas like education and health care. Yet the Cuban government faces significant economic challenges, including eliminating its dual-exchange-rate system, making its state-run enterprises more efficient and transparent, developing a financial system that provides expanded services to individuals and the private sector, and reducing its reliance on foreign subsidies. Cuba remains highly dependent on food and energy imports, yet must cope with limited sources of hard currency to pay for import needs. Significant emigration of working age Cubans further exacerbates Cuba’s demographic problem of a rapidly aging population.
A series of statutes limits U.S. economic engagement with Cuba, precluding a complete lifting of restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, prohibiting United States Government export assistance and the provision of U.S. credit for Cuban purchases of agricultural commodities, and requiring that the embargo not be suspended or terminated unless the President determines that a transition or democratically elected government has come to power in Cuba.
Due to Cuba’s legal, political, and regulatory constraints, its economy is not generating adequate foreign exchange to purchase U.S. exports that could flow from the easing of the embargo. Even if the U.S. Congress were to lift the embargo, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued economic reform in Cuba. Cuban government regulations and opaque procurement practices hamper transactions with U.S. companies that would be permitted under U.S. law.
Normalization efforts have raised Cubans’ expectations for greater economic opportunities. With an estimated 1 in 4 working Cubans engaged in entrepreneurship, a dynamic, independent private sector is emerging. Expansion of the private sector has increased resources for individual Cubans and created nascent openings for Cuban entrepreneurs to engage with U.S. firms and nongovernmental organizations. We take note of the Cuban government’s limited, but meaningful steps to expand legal protections and opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses, which, if expanded and sustained, will improve the investment climate.
Cuba is not a member of international financial institutions (IFIs), such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, which could provide expertise and potentially finance economic reforms and viable investment projects.
Although Cuba has reached agreement with several creditor nations on bilateral debt relief through restructuring and forgiveness, it remains in default to the United States Government on pre-Cuban revolution bilateral debts and does not participate in international capital markets. Cuba and the United States are both members of the World Trade Organization (WTO); however, neither country applies the agreement to the other because of the U.S. embargo toward Cuba.
Rapprochement has enabled us to increase our engagement with Cuba on regional issues such as the Colombia peace process and healthcare in Haiti, and has undermined an historic rallying point for regimes critical of the United States. Although Cuba has expressed no interest in participating in the OAS, it did attend the Summit of the Americas in 2015. We also welcome engagement between Cuba and other U.S. allies from around the world, including our European and Asian treaty allies. At the same time, we recognize that Cuba and the United States will continue to have differences on many regional and global issues.
U.S. engagement with the Cuban government will also be constrained by Cuba’s continued repression of civil and political liberties. We anticipate the Cuban government will continue to object to U.S. migration policies and operations, democracy programs, Radio and TV Marti, the U.S. presence at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, and the embargo. The United States Government has no intention to alter the existing lease treaty and other arrangements related to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, which enables the United States to enhance and preserve regional security.
In this strategic environment, the policies and actions the United States pursues to advance our vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization will significantly shape the future of bilateral and regional relations, as well as our shared security and prosperity.
V. Six U.S. Objectives for the Medium-Term U.S.-Cuba Relationship
To advance the four end-state goals associated with our strategic vision for U.S.-Cuba normalization, the United States will move concurrently on the following six priority objectives:
1. Government-to-Government Interaction
We will continue high-level and technical engagement in areas of mutual interest, including agriculture, the economy and small businesses, transportation, science and technology, environment, climate, health, law enforcement, migration, national security, disaster preparedness and response, and counterterrorism. Through the Bilateral Commission, we will identify and prioritize areas of collaboration and engagement that advance our end-state goals. Stronger diplomatic ties will enable constructive engagement on bilateral differences, including our democracy and broadcasting programs, while protecting our interests and assets, such as the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. We will utilize engagement to urge Cuba to make demonstrable progress on human rights and religious freedom. As the United States and Cuban governments build trust through more frequent engagement, we will increasingly conduct working-level interactions between Cuban ministries and U.S. agencies and departments that lessen the need for high-level conversations on routine matters. Given the lack of diplomatic relations over the past several decades, we will seek broad engagement across the Cuban government, including ministries and local officials. When appropriate and legally available, we will engage with Cuba to normalize trade relations fully.
2. Engagement and Connectivity
The United States will continue to encourage people-to-people linkages through government and privately sponsored exchanges, including those involving educational, cultural, business, science, environment, technology, and sports. As permitted by law, we will continue to support the development of scheduled and chartered air service and maritime links, including ferries. An ongoing partnership with the Cuban-American community is of particular importance given Cuban-Americans’ strong family and socio-cultural ties, as well as their natural role as citizen-ambassadors. We will facilitate opportunities for Cuban-Americans to rebuild and create new bonds with family to support reconciliation. To facilitate Cuba’s goal of increasing its internet access from 5 percent to 50 percent of the population by 2020, we will seek the establishment of a bilateral working group to expand internet connectivity. We will seek opportunities that enable U.S. foundations and universities to establish linkages with Cuba.
3. Expanded Commerce
The United States Government will seek to expand opportunities for U.S. companies to engage with Cuba. The embargo is outdated and should be lifted. My Administration has repeatedly called upon the Congress to lift the embargo, and we will continue to work toward that goal. While the embargo remains in place, our role will be to pursue policies that enable authorized U.S. private sector engagement with Cuba’s emerging private sector and with state-owned enterprises that provide goods and services to the Cuban people. Law enforcement cooperation will ensure that authorized commerce and authorized travelers move rapidly between the United States and Cuba. Although we recognize the priority given to state-owned enterprises in the Cuban model, we seek to encourage reforms that align these entities with international norms, especially transparency.
United States regulatory changes have created space for the Cuban government to introduce comparable changes. In tandem with the Department of the Treasury’s regulatory change to expand Cuba’s access to the U.S. financial system and U.S. dollar transit accounts, the Cuban government announced in early 2016 plans to eliminate the 10 percent penalty on U.S. dollar conversion transactions, subject to improved access to the international banking system. We will sustain private and public efforts to explain our regulatory changes to U.S. firms and banks, Cuban entrepreneurs, and the Cuban government.
4. Economic Reform
While the Cuban government pursues its economic goals based on its national priorities, we will utilize our expanded cooperation to support further economic reforms by the Cuban government. Recent exchanges among financial service institutions and regulators have provided greater mutual understanding of our respective financial system and economic priorities. We will undertake government-to-government dialogues to discuss options for macro- and microeconomic reform, with the goal of connecting the changes in U.S. policy with Cuban reforms in a manner that creates opportunity for U.S. firms and the Cuban people.
If and when the Congress lifts the embargo, my Administration will engage with the Congress and stakeholders on preparatory commercial and economic exchanges and dialogues. My Administration would then similarly engage the Congress on the substance and timing of a new bilateral commercial agreement to address remaining statutory trade requirements.
5. Respect for Universal Human Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, and Democratic Values
We will not pursue regime change in Cuba. We will continue to make clear that the United States cannot impose a different model on Cuba because the future of Cuba is up to the Cuban people. We seek greater Cuban government respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for every individual. Progress in this area will have a positive impact on the other objectives. We will encourage the Cuban government to respect human rights; support Cuba’s emerging, broad-based civil society; and encourage partners and nongovernmental actors to join us in advocating for reforms. While remaining committed to supporting democratic activists as we do around the world, we will also engage community leaders, bloggers, activists, and other social issue leaders who can contribute to Cuba’s internal dialogue on civic participation. We will continue to pursue engagements with civil society through the U.S. Embassy in Havana and during official United States Government visits to Cuba. We will seek to institutionalize a regular human rights dialogue with the Cuban government to advance progress on human rights. We will pursue democracy programming that is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies around the world. We will utilize our increased ability to engage regional partners, both bilaterally and through regional bodies, to encourage respect for human rights in Cuba. We will consult with nongovernmental actors such as the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. Finally, we will work with the European Union and likeminded international organizations and countries to encourage the Cuban government to respect universal values.
6. Cuban Integration into International and Regional Systems
We will expand dialogue with Cuba in the organizations in which it already holds membership, such as the WTO and the World Customs Organization (WCO), and we will encourage Cuba to move toward rules-based engagement, subject to statutory requirements. We will encourage Cuba to bring its legal framework, particularly its commercial law, in line with international standards. We will encourage Cuba to meet WCO standards for supply chain security. To the extent permitted by and consistent with applicable law, we will facilitate integration into international bodies, including through the use of technical assistance programs. We will pursue cooperation with Cuba on regional and global issues (e.g., combating the Ebola outbreak and the Colombia peace process). Ending the embargo and satisfying other statutory requirements relating to trade will allow the United States to normalize trade relations with Cuba.
VI. Policy Implementation
1. Roles and Responsibilities
To facilitate the effective implementation of this directive, departments and agencies will have the following roles and responsibilities, consistent with the relevant legal authorities and limits:
The National Security Council (NSC) staff will provide ongoing policy coordination and oversight of the implementation of this PPD and the overall Cuba strategy as necessary.
The Department of State will continue to be responsible for formulation of U.S. policy toward and coordination of relations with Cuba. This includes supporting the operations of Embassy Havana and ensuring it has adequate resources and staffing. Other responsibilities include the issuance of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, refugee processing, promotion of educational and cultural exchanges, coordination of democracy programs, and political and economic reporting. State will continue to lead the U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Commission and coordinate a number of dialogues, such as the Law Enforcement Dialogue, annual migration talks, and meetings to resolve outstanding claims.
State will continue to co-lead efforts with the U.S. Agency for International Development to ensure democracy programming is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies. State will coordinate efforts to advance science and technology cooperation with Cuba. State will support telecommunications and internet access growth in Cuba and provide foreign policy guidance to the Departments of Commerce and the Treasury on certain exports, financial transactions, and other license applications.
The U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN), in coordination with State, will oversee multilateral issues involving Cuba at the United Nations. USUN will identify areas of possible collaboration with Cuba that could help foster a more collaborative relationship between the United States and Cuba at the United Nations. The USUN will also participate in discussions regarding the annual Cuban embargo resolution at the United Nations, as our bilateral relationship continues to develop in a positive trajectory.
The Department of the Treasury is responsible for implementation of the economic embargo restrictions and licensing policies. The Treasury will continue its outreach to help the public, businesses, and financial institutions understand the regulatory changes. The Treasury will continue to review and respond to public questions and feedback on regulations and public guidance that could be further clarified and to discuss with State any novel license requests that the Treasury receives from the public to determine whether such requests are consistent with the regulatory changes and existing law. The Treasury will make use of available channels for bilateral dialogue to understand Cuba’s economic and financial system and encourage reforms and will continue to engage in dialogue with the Cuban government about our regulatory changes.
The Department of Commerce will continue to support the development of the Cuban private sector, entrepreneurship, commercial law development, and intellectual property rights as well as environmental protection and storm prediction. If statutory restrictions are lifted, Commerce will promote increased trade with Cuba by providing export assistance to U.S. companies. In the meantime, Commerce will continue a robust outreach effort to ensure that U.S. companies understand that U.S. regulatory changes provide new opportunities to obtain licenses or use license exceptions to increase authorized exports to Cuba, including to Cuban state-owned enterprises that provide goods and services to meet the needs of the Cuban people. Additionally, Commerce will continue to engage in dialogue with the Cuban government about our regulatory changes, as well as the need for simplification of the Cuban import process, transparency in Cuban business regulations, and other steps that will lead to full realization of the benefits of our regulatory changes.
The Department of Defense (DOD) will continue to take steps to expand the defense relationship with Cuba where it will advance U.S. interests, with an initial focus on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counternarcotics in the Caribbean. The DOD will support Cuba’s inclusion in the inter-American defense system and regional security and defense conferences, which will give Cuba a stake in hemispheric stability. The DOD will continue to make contingency preparations and support the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security and State to address mass migration and maritime migration issues pursuant to Executive Orders 12807 and 13276 and consistent with other applicable interagency guidance and strategy.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will engage, together with the Department of Justice, with the Cuban government to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime. In support of U.S. security and foreign policy objectives, DHS will develop protocols for investigative cooperation with Cuba in coordination with other departments and agencies. The DHS will strengthen the security and efficiency of cross-border supply chains and travel systems in support of people-to-people engagement and authorized U.S. trade with the Cuban private sector. The DHS will safeguard the integrity of the U.S. immigration system, to include the facilitation of lawful immigration and ensure protection of refugees. The Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Government lead for a maritime migration or mass migration, with support from the Secretaries of State and Defense, will address a maritime migration or mass migration pursuant to Executive Orders 12807 and 13276 and consistent with applicable interagency guidance and strategy.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will engage, together with DHS, with the Cuban government to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime. The DOJ will work with Cuba to expand security and law enforcement cooperation, increase information sharing, and share best practices with Cuban counterparts. This work will build upon, and strengthen, current law enforcement cooperation with Cuba under the umbrella of the U.S.-Cuba Law Enforcement Dialogue and its various working groups, which focus on counterterrorism, counternarcotics, cybercrime, human trafficking, and other areas of criminal activity.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) will continue to engage with the Cuban government, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and cooperative enterprises. The SBA will support exchanges with the Cuban government in areas of mutual interest, particularly on formalization of small businesses and to spur the growth of new enterprises.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative will provide trade policy coordination in international fora and, consistent with statutory requirements and restrictions, prepare for negotiations to normalize and expand U.S.-Cuba trade.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will work to increase U.S. food and agricultural exports to Cuba by building market opportunities, improving the competitive position of U.S. agriculture, and building Cuba’s food security and agricultural capacity, while protecting plant, animal, and human health. USDA will work with the Government of Cuba to advance cooperation outlined in the U.S.-Cuba agricultural memorandum of understanding signed in March 2016. The USDA will build the U.S.-Cuba trade and development relationship to the extent permitted by and consistent with applicable law.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in accordance with the June 2016 memorandum of understanding between HHS and the Ministry of Public Health of the Republic of Cuba, will collaborate with Cuban counterparts in the areas of public health, research, and biomedical sciences, including collaboration to confront the Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya, and other arboviruses. The HHS will promote joint work, such as development of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics; partner with Cuba to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks; collaborate in the field of cancer control, treatment programs, and joint research; and exchange best practices related to access to healthcare.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will coordinate with departments and agencies the United States Government’s response to unplanned environmental occurrences, such as natural or manmade disasters. The USAID will co-lead efforts with State to ensure that democracy programming is transparent and consistent with programming in other similarly situated societies.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will continue to develop air and surface transportation links between the United States and Cuba in support of transportation providers, authorized travelers, and commerce, while providing required regulatory and safety oversight of transportation providers and systems.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) will support broader United States Government efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, with Intelligence Community elements working to find opportunities for engagement on areas of common interest through which we could exchange information on mutual threats with Cuban counterparts.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) will continue cooperation with Cuba on marine protected areas and continue to engage Cuban counterparts to finalize arrangements on wildlife conservation, terrestrial national protected areas, and seismic records.
2. Congressional Outreach
Strong support in the Congress for U.S.-Cuba normalization would contribute to the speed and success of the aforementioned goals, particularly with respect to the embargo and adequate embassy staffing. We will seek to build support in the Congress to lift the embargo and other statutory constraints to enable expanded travel and commerce with Cuba and accelerate normalization. We will regularly engage with Members of Congress and staff on challenges and opportunities in Cuba, advocate for United States Government policies and sufficient staff and resources to implement the aforementioned goals and policy priorities, and encourage and facilitate congressional travel to the region.
3. Monitoring and Oversight
The Interagency Policy Committee (IPC), or its future equivalent, will have primary responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the implementation of this policy. The NSC staff will convene regular IPC and Deputies Committee meetings as necessary to monitor implementation and resolve obstacles to progress. The following departments and agencies will designate senior individuals responsible for managing policy implementation in their agency: State, the Treasury, Commerce, DOD (Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff), DHS, DOJ, USDA, HHS, DOT, USUN, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, USAID, SBA, and DNI.
4. Previous Guidance
Executive Order 13276, Delegation of Responsibilities Concerning Undocumented Aliens Interdicted or Intercepted in the Caribbean Region, dated November 15, 2002, and Executive Order 12807, Interdiction of Illegal Aliens, dated May 24, 1992, remain in effect.