Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.
In the interest of maintaining diplomatic “parity” between the US and Cuba, the Trump administration is reportedly planning to ask the Cuban government to reduce the staff at its embassy in Washington by 60% following last week’s announcement that the US planned to recall two-thirds of its diplomatic personnel in Havana, according to the Associated Press.
While the government didn’t cite a justification for its decision beyond the 'parity' line – notably the same excuse used by the Trump administration when it ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and reduce the head count at its embassy in Washington – it’s clear that the move was meant as retaliation for a series of mysterious sonic attacks that have left 21 diplomatic personnel in Havana with injuries ranging from minor pain and nausea to permanent brain damage.
The attacks, which began shortly after the election last fall, are considered to be ongoing, yet US intelligence hasn’t been able to confirm any specifics about the weapon used to carry out the attacks – to say nothing about the identity of the attacker or attackers.
The Cuban government, for its part, has vehemently denied any knowledge or involvement in the attacks. But that didn’t stop the US from quietly expelling two embassy personnel in August.
Earlier today, the AP dropped perhaps the most revealing scoop on the subject so far when it reported that some of the diplomats who were targeted were spies. According to the AP’s sources, the US government isn’t certain that their status as spies was the motivation for their targeting; however, the injuries reported by the spies were among the most severe.
By expelling the diplomats, the Trump administration will undoubtedly strain the newly reestablished US-Cuba relationship, which has surprisingly continued to improve during the first nine months of Trump’s presidency despite his promises to reverse the Obama-era détente.
According to the AP, the State Department is expected to announce its decision Tuesday. The Cuban diplomats won’t be formally expelled unless Havana refuses to send them home.
As is often the case when shadowy intelligence agencies are (presumably) involved, the US’s motives for expelling the diplomats are murky.
If US intelligence has discovered some evidence linking Cuba to the attacks – thereby proving that Castro is lying about his noninvolvement – the expulsion would be justified.
However, if it’s merely to save face, then as the AP pointed out in its story early today, whatever agent provocateur is behind these attacks is clearly succeeding in disrupting the relationship between the two countries.
If this is the case, then the US might want to take this into consideration. Because that may be their goal.