Cuba Off Terrorism List, Germany and U.S. Drones, War in Yemen

Originally published at the Fordham Observer‘s “Going Global” column.

U.S to Remove Cuba From Terror Sponsors List

In his continued effort to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Barack Obama has made an official recommendation to Congress that Cuba be removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. The move will leave only Iran, Sudan and Syria on the list. Cuba was placed on the list in 1982 when its government was supporting liberation struggles across the region. It will not be officially removed from the list until after a 45-day review period, during which Congress could form a joint resolution to block its removal. The Cuban government called Obama’s move “just” and said it should never have been on the listThe U.S. trade embargo with Cuba remains in effect. “President Obama has acknowledged publicly and with actions something that has been obvious for a very long time: US policy towards Cuba has been frozen for way too many years and hasn’t done a thing to achieve its stated goals. It’s time to try a more enlightened approach,” Hector Lindo-Fuentes, associate chair and professor of history, said.

Germany is heart of U.S. drone program

A top-secret document obtained by the news website, The Intercept, confirms that the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany, is the main technology center for America’s drone program. Drone operators in the American Southwest use Ramstein as a satellite relay station to communicate with their remote aircraft in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other targeted countries. Although Ramstein’s role in the drone program has been downplayed, an unidentified source told The Intercept, “Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now.” A German court has agreed to hear a case brought by a relative of two Yemeni victims of a U.S. drone strike for Germany’s role in the drone program. This is globally unprecedented as no court anywhere, including in the U.S., has ever agreed to grant standing to a relative of a drone strike victim. “Perhaps the court would be willing to issue an injunction prohibiting the use of Ramstein for its role in drone strikes if it finds this role essential,” Thomas H. Lee, Leitner Family professor of International Law, said. “All of this just adds to the controversies about the drone program – the United States has still not officially recognized civilian deaths as collateral damage.”

War in Yemen

Over 1,000 people have died in the fighting in Yemen since late March. With intelligence and logistical support from the United States, Saudi Arabia and nine regional allies began bombing Houthis on March 25. The Houthis, a Shiite minority, took over the capital Sana’a in January and forced the resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has since fled to Saudi Arabia. President Obama has long defended the “successful” counterterrorism model with the Yemeni government in its fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has begun to gain control of more territory during the power vacuum created by the Houthis’ takeover and the Saudi Arabian military campaign. “No outside power can resolve what is, at heart, a struggle for national identity in a country seriously divided along religious, tribal, and ideological lines […] You can’t bomb a country into the 21st century nor rearrange its political architecture through external interference,” John P. Entelis, professor and chair of Political Science and director of Middle East Studies, said.