Consider the other shoe dropped. After deciding to remove most US personnel from Havana following a series of “sonic” attacks that have injured almost two dozen American diplomats, the Trump administration plans to enforce reciprocity on Cuba’s US mission. An hour ago, the State Department lowered the boom:
JUST IN: US orders departure of 15 Cuban diplomats from Embassy in DC amid investigation into health attacks on US personnel in Cuba. pic.twitter.com/VJWpq0xtqo
— ABC News (@ABC) October 3, 2017
That will result in the expulsion of more than half of the Castro regime’s personnel, McClatchy reported last night:
The Trump administration will kick nearly two-thirds of Cuba’s embassy personnel out of the United States after months of mysterious attacks targeting American diplomats drove the White House to pull its own staff from Havana, according to multiple sources familiar with the plan.
According to three of the U.S. sources briefed on the plan, the State Department will announce the expulsion of Cuban diplomatic personnel as soon as Tuesday. A fourth described the expulsion as “reciprocity” for the American withdrawal from Havana.
A series of mysterious “sonic” attacks began months ago and has affected as many as 25 U.S. personnel. According to one source, U.S. intelligence operatives were the first known American personnel affected. The most recent incidents were reported within the last few weeks.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the most prominent Cuban-Americans in Congress, told reporters that she was “pleased as punch” at the decision:
“I spoke on Friday to the State Department and I told them that I am strongly advocating that the U.S. kick those ‘diplomats,’ who are nothing more than spies, out of the U.S.,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican. “State told me that it was reviewing this action, so I’m pleased as punch to hear that it may happen soon.”
Sen. Marco Rubio signaled his support on Twitter this morning:
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 3, 2017
So far the Cuban government has had no official response to the decision, perhaps in part because it’s not quite official, or at least publicly so. It won’t come as a surprise when State makes it officially official, either. The Castro regime had to know it was coming when the US evacuated its non-essential personnel from our Havana embassy. The Associated Press reports that the US will not go to the extent of declaring the Cubans persona non grata, which would preclude their return when developments warrant, unless the Castro regime refuses to comply with this order.
These moves are long overdue. CNN notes that the US now believes diplomats and their families have been subjected to as many as fifty sonic attacks starting last year:
For months, starting late last year, US diplomats in Havana complained of incidents, often late at night in their homes or hotel rooms, that left them feeling ill. …
As many as 50 attacks are believed to have been carried out against the diplomats, a senior US official has told CNN.
Diplomats have been treated for ear complaints, hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, balance problems, visual complaints, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping, a senior US official said.
It’s still a mystery as to who’s conducting these attacks, and why. The US insists — rightly — that the Castro regime is responsible for preventing these attacks regardless, and that even with public pressure, the Cubans have not taken effective steps to protect US diplomats.
Will Cuba retaliate further? It’s not in their interest to do so, but it’s tough to see how these attacks were in their interest, either.