December 26, 2014 | Policy Brief

Reading Washington’s New Cuba Policy in Tehran

December 26, 2014 | Policy Brief

Reading Washington’s New Cuba Policy in Tehran

President Barack Obama’s overturning of Washington’s longstanding commercial and diplomatic isolation of Cuba earlier this month has grabbed the attention of another country chafing under U.S. sanctions: the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Obama’s abrupt change of course on Cuba resonated widely in the Iranian press. The hardline newspaper Kayhan exulted that America had “admitted the ineffectiveness” of sanctions against Havana, while the Islamic Republic News Agency touted what it described as Washington’s belated “regret” over the embargo.

The Revolutionary Guards-linked Mashregh News surmised that America hadn’t abandoned, but merely modified, its Cuba policy. Opening an embassy in Havana, it insisted, was all part of an elaborate plan for a post-Soviet “color revolution” to sap the country’s revolutionary spirit.

Broadly speaking, Washington’s Cuba turnaround appears to have convinced Tehran that intransigence pays. Since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic has insisted that confrontation is the only effective way to deal with the forces of “global arrogance” — chiefly the United States. Last week’s U-turn will likely solidify that position, including those in the regime espousing “resistance economics.”

In the words of Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham, “The resistance and steadfastness of the nation and government officials of Cuba… has shown that imposed policies of isolation and sanctions… are without result.”

The ongoing debate about the wisdom of a Iranian nuclear deal with the P5+1 will undoubtedly be analyzed with similar themes. Indeed, the remarks of Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani are instructive: “Tehran is not seeking the resumption of diplomatic ties with America, even if a nuclear agreement helps remove tension between these sides.”

Domestically, President Obama’s Cuba détente has prompted a number of appeals for America to reset relations with Iran.  But if the statements out of Iran are any indication, Tehran is determined to choose confrontation over cooperation, regardless of whether or not diplomatic ties warm between Washington and Havana.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is an Iran Research Analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies


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