The 'New Cuban Missile Crisis' Mystery Deepens
Thus far, Lockheed Martin declines to comment, and Cuba declines to return the missile.
On the one hand, U.S. officials don’t think the Cubans can do much damage with the missile. On the other hand, an unnamed American official though it might pass from Cuba to another country. He mentioned Russia, China, or North Korea as possibilities; he did not mention Iran.
Russia and China have their own versions of the Hellfire. Russia has the Vikhr and China has the JH10, both of which are comparable to the U.S. missile although significantly cheaper. It is unlikely that either state would need to steal or buy a Hellfire on the black market.
According to a former U.S. government official, Russia does not export the Vikhr to Iran -- although it does sell them the ATAKA, a less competent anti-tank missile.
The relationship between Cuba and Iran is well-documented. Is it time to consider the possibility that Havana sent a gift to Tehran? Or that the U.S. used Cuba as a third party to send a gift to Tehran during the sensitive period leading up to the 2013 “Interim Agreement” on nuclear technology, which led to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?
Consider what else was negotiated with Iran during the period.
Three American hikers were captured by Iran and imprisoned as spies in 2009; the first was released in 2010 and the others in September 2011. In 2012, the United States released Iranian prisoners Shahrzad Mir Gholikhan, Nosratollah Tajik, and Amir Hossein Seirafi, all of whom worked for the Islamic Republic's military establishment. Gholikhan had been convicted on three counts of weapons trafficking. Tajik tried to buy night-vision goggles. Seirafi attempted to purchase specialized vacuum pumps that could be used in the Iranian nuclear program.
The deal was already lopsided in Iran's favor. But then we gave them more, with the later release of Mojtaba Atarodi, a top Iranian scientist arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire nuclear-related technology. Atarodi’s release came shortly after the then-secret U.S.-Iran talks that began in March 2013. The Interim Agreement was signed in November 2013.
The Hellfire missiles, for which Cuba has no use, arrived in Havana in the first part of 2014.
The U.S. was negotiating better relations with both Iran and Cuba during 2014. Cuba couldn’t use Hellfire missiles, but Iran could -- the Hellfire would be an upgrade over the Russian missiles they had. Recall that Iran could supply such a weapon to allies such as Hezbollah, to weaponize their drones for attacking Israel.
The implications are dire, State’s public explanation is not credible, Kirby's response is close to an admission of guilt, and the Obama administration has yet another massive scandal on its hands.