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U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shake hands at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

U.S. Outreach to Iran, Cuba Still Lacks Broader Strategic Framework

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One of the most salient criticisms of U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent overtures to Iran and Cuba is that neither country, as a condition for engagement, has agreed to undertake fundamental reforms of their internal political systems or alter the general direction of their foreign policies. Indeed, the leaders of both countries have claimed victory in defying those types of demands.

In theory, this need not be a setback. When Richard Nixon traveled to China in 1972, Mao Zedong did not repudiate his ideology, release any political prisoners or make any commitment to pursuing liberal political or economic reforms. Nixon, in essence, engaged a hard-line communist regime that made no secret of its dislike for the American system and continually criticized U.S. behavior. Moreover, Nixon’s visit upset many of America’s Asian allies, who feared it was the first sign of their own abandonment. The opening to China, however, was intended to help shift the global strategic balance back in favor of the U.S. and to help counterbalance the rising power of the Soviet Union, which threatened both Washington and Beijing. The engagement was less about promoting freedom for the Chinese people than about preserving it for Americans. ...

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