On MPR News with Kerri Miller, we took a look at three countries with developing diplomatic stories in Iran, Venezuela and Cuba.
The delicate proceedings toward a nuclear deal with Iran were thrown for a loop last week when 47 GOP senators wrote an open letter to Iran, reminding the country that Congress could kill any long-term deal. The country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dismissed the letter as propaganda, but many feel it may have complicated an already tense situation.
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Roya Hakakian, Middle East Program fellow at the Wilson Center, told Kerri Miller that the letter is just another example of inability of the two countries to ever see eye to eye:
"This is one glitch in a series of unsuccessful, botched, misguided and mistaken steps that either country - especially the United States - has taken with one another. So I think while it shakes us as Americans in this country that this letter has been sent, in the long terms 36, 37 year view it really isn't a deal breaker in any shape or form."
In Venezuela, new U.S. sanctions are in place that continue to depress the country's already-suffering economy as oil prices plummet and basic goods begin to run out. Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said the sanctions are also leading to widespread citizen unrest, with much of the anger directed at the United States:
"What's caused such an enormous problem not just in the US Venezuelan relations but throughout the hemisphere is that the requirements of US law are such that the executive branch, President Obama, has to declare a national emergency and identify Venezuela as a threat to national security in order to implement the sanctions and it's this kind of language that has allowed [Venezuelan President] Maduro to rally his base and has caused ordinary Venezuelans to really sort of wonder what the United States is thinking about...so this language brings up the worst kinds of memory of the history of Us Latin American relations so it's really been unfortunate. It's provided an enormous boost to the President."
The opening of U.S. and Cuban relations has been heralded as an important move to rebuilding connections as people and goods can now travel freely between the countries for the first time in decades. But questions remain about how quickly change will come to Cuba and whether the country can rebuild. Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a D.C.-based policy forum on US-Latin American relations, says the move was needed if Cuba was going to save its finances and its people.
"Cuba's economy is not in good shape. It's not growing, investment is not coming in. President Raul Castro tried to put in a number of reforms, they've had some modest success but basically the country is in dire straits. It relies on tourism, it relies on remittances from Cuban immigrants that live in the United States primarily and of course it's relied on Venezuelan oil, and Venezuela being in such a deep crisis is no in a position to sustain Cuba as it once was."