Posts Tagged Cuba

American Flag Raised Over Embassy in Cuba

The U.S. flag flies at the U.S. embassy in HavanaSecretary of State John Kerry went to Cuba on Friday and raised the American flag above the U.S. Embassy for the first time in 54 years.

“Thank you for joining us at this truly historic moment as we prepare to raise the flag … symbolizing the restoration of diplomatic relations after 54 years,” Kerry said at the ceremony, addressing the crowd in both English and Spanish.

Kerry’s visit marks the symbolic end of one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. But signs of mistrust linger, and beyond the pomp and circumstance lies a long road back from more than half a century of diplomatic animosity.

On Thursday, Cuban state media put out an article in the name of Fidel Castro, writing on the occasion of his 89th birthday, in which he made no reference to the historic resumption of U.S.-Cuba relations but instead waxed on about the damage the American embargo has caused Cuba and the anniversary of the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Japan.

The rhetoric from the leader of the Cuban revolution, and the face of anti-U.S. resistance, is not unexpected. But it underscores the long-standing tensions at play as Washington and Havana work to thaw the decadeslong chill in relations.

Even Kerry’s brief visit reflects the complexities of opening a new chapter of engagement with the Cuban government.

He was accompanied by a number of U.S. lawmakers who had advocated normalizing diplomatic and economic relations with the island. Several Cuban-Americans also are part of the delegation.

But anti-Castro dissidents weren’t at the U.S. Embassy ceremony marking the restoration of ties. Kerry met with the dissidents and human rights activists at another flag-raising, this one closed to press at the residence of the U.S. chief of mission, along with a broad cross section of Cuban entrepreneurs, journalists and artists.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, blasted the decision in a foreign policy speech delivered in New York Friday morning.

“As a symbol of just how backward this policy shift has turned out to be, no Cuban dissidents have been invited to today’s official flag-raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Havana,” Rubio said. “Cuba’s dissidents have fought for decades for the very Democratic principles President Obama claims to be advancing through these concessions. Their exclusion from this event has ensured it will be little more than a propaganda rally for the Castro regime.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and also the son of Cuban immigrants, said it was “shameful” that Cuba could bar dissidents from the ceremony and said the U.S. flag should not fly in a country that does not value freedom.

“A flag representing freedom and liberty will rise today in a country ruled by a repressive regime that denies its people democracy and basic human rights. This is the embodiment of a wrongheaded policy that rewards the Castro regime’s brutality at the expense of the Cuban people’s right to freedom of expression and independence,” Menendez said in a statement.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the opening of the embassy a “sad day” in an interview Friday with CNN en Espanol.

“It’s a sad day for me because we did not get anything, no freedom, the dissidents were not invited, not even a change in the regime, they have the economic control. The American flag up but no changes to the Cuban people, it’s a sad day for me,” Bush said, according to a CNN translation.

When Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez visited Washington to reopen the Cuban embassy, he underscored the differences that remain. Standing next to Kerry at the State Department last month, Rodriguez made clear the full normalization of ties between the United States and Cuba would be impossible as long as the blockade remains.

President Barack Obama has eased some travel and business restrictions, but only Congress can lift the 53-year-old embargo, something that is unlikely to happen with Republicans controlling both chambers through the end of his term.

Senior administration officials said they are examining what more the President can do to support the Cuban people and Cuban entrepreneurs but said he would be cautious about going too far, too fast.

The officials said that the President’s calculus in carving out certain sectors health, agriculture, telecom and information, was that they could be justified within the President’s executive authority as humanitarian in nature and opening Cuba to the outside world.

But Obama will not do an end run around Congress and gut the embargo, they said, something Republican lawmakers opposed to the new policy have accused him of.

“These are areas we think can help bring about improvements in the lives of average Cubans even if they bring some benefit to a government we disagree with,” one senior official said. “We are making exceptions to the embargo but still keeping the premise of it.

 

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Rubio Sets Out “Rubio Doctrine” – At The Council On Foreign Relations Event

RubioSenator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a 2016 presidential candidate, offered a robust and muscular foreign policy plan Wednesday, laying out his vision for the use of American power in the 21st century at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, saying that unlike the current U.S. president, he understands the importance of projecting ‘American Strength.’

‘American Strength,’ he said, is a ‘means of preventing war, not promoting it…weakness, on the other hand, is the friend of danger and the enemy of peace.’

The U.S. Senator revisited and expanded upon several pillars of foreign policy that are central to his campaign to win the White House, including his support for a robust U.S. military and a return to America’s ‘core values.’

He said when asked that he doesn’t envision the U.S. acting as the world’s policeman – though he said he believes that only America is ‘capable’of convening and uniting the world to confront modern challenges.

And he claimed that he would not have voted to go to war with Iraq if he’d been in the U.S. Senate at the time, knowing what he does now about faulty intelligence that convinced lawmakers, and the George W. Bush administration, that Saddam Hussein’s regime was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Sharply separating his foreign policy from that of President Barack Obama, Rubio said the current occupant of the White House ‘entered office believing America was too hard on our adversaries, too engaged in too many places, and that if we just took a step back, did some “nation building at home” – ceding leadership to other countries, America would be better liked and the world better off.’

‘So he wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American Strength,’ Rubio argued, ‘He demonstrated a disregard for our moral purpose that at times flirted with disdain.’

This deterioration of our physical and ideological strength has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office.’

On Obama’s watch, Rubio said, ‘We’ve seen an emboldened Russia invade Ukraine,’ and ISIS ‘commit brutal atrocities.’

‘We’ve seen one of the most devastating humanitarian catastrophes in decades as hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been slaughtered at the whim of a tyrant,’ he said referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is known to have used chemical weapons on his people.

Rubio said that the ‘most threatening’ global development of all during Obama’s five and a half years in office has been the expansion of Iran’s influence in the Middle East and its threats to ‘annihilate Israel as it moves closer to a nuclear weapons capability.’

The Obama administration’s tentative accord with Iran will ‘likely lead to a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and could force Israel to take bold action to defend itself, making war with Iran even more likely,’ he contended, accusing the outgoing U.S. leader of putting his ‘legacy over leadership.’

‘The likely impacts of this deal, along with the broader unraveling of global order, underscore a truth we must never again forget: America plays a part on the world stage for which there is no understudy,’ the GOP presidential hopeful said.

‘When we fail to lead with strength and principle, no other country, friend or foe, is willing or able to take our place. And the result is chaos.’

He also pushed for stronger protections of America’s property whether on land, at sea or in cyber or outer space.

An outspoken member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has put his experience with international issues at the crux of his bid to become Commander-in-Chief, Rubio was not expected to unveil a game-changing manifesto this afternoon.

Rather, the speech, and subsequent question and answer session were to offer the well-spoken senator an opportunity to remind foreign-policy conscious voters why he believes he’s the best candidate to represent the GOP in an election cycle in which national security issues are taking center stage.

But a perceived shift in position on authorization of the Iraq war had tongues wagging after the speech.

After Rose asked him if he would have supported a 2002 resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Rubio said, ‘Not only would I not have been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it.’

Rubio said had the Republican president known the intelligence was faulty, he wouldn’t have called for military engagement with Hussein.

Yet Rubio in March said he did not believe it was a mistake to go to war with Iraq during a Fox News interview.

‘The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein doesn’t run Iraq,’ he said.

And, as the Miami Herald, points out, Rubio said in 2010 as a candidate for the U.S. Senate that he believes that America is better off having invaded the Middle Eastern country.

‘I think the answer ultimately is yes,’ he said, responding to a question. ‘First of all, the world is better off because Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge in Iraq. And I think we have to remind ourselves of that, is that the world is a better and safer place because Saddam Hussein no longer is in charge of that country.

Only one other Republican candidate for the White House serves of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and the two have wildly different views on the responsibilities America should take on globally, despite representing the same political party in Congress.

Rubio believes that increased funding for the U.S. military should be a priority of the next administration, while Paul has vigorously supported a reduction in the number of troops stationed abroad.

‘To ensure our strength never falters, we must always plan ahead,’ Rubio said. ‘It takes forethought to design and many years to build the capabilities we may need at a moment’s notice.’

Rubio said he’d be in favor of greater funding ‘even in times of peace and stability, though the world today is neither.’

In that regard, the Rubio doctrine doesn’t differ significantly from that of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who has plans to enter the race on June 1.

Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a strident critic of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. He has aggressively advocated for an escalation in defense spending funding and an enhanced presence abroad, as well.

But the bare-faced senator’s aspiring candidacy has failed to catch fire outside of his home state.

Rubio, on the other hand, has come-from-behind since formally announcing his intentions and has surged to the top of multiple polls.

Paired up against likely Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rubio would lose by six points – but that’s better than nearly every one of his GOP competitors.

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, would also lose to Clinton in the general election by six percentage points, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll released last week shows. Paul has repeatedly come closest to beating the Democratic juggernaut but would still succumb to her 44-47.

Among Republican primary voters and caucus-goers, Rubio often does better than Bush or Paul, and his focus on foreign policy may be the cause.

The WSJ/NBC news poll found that 27 percent of Republicans believe that national security is a top priority at present, making it the top concern of GOP voters.

In 2012, for instance, just eight percent of Republicans said the same thing.

Rubio’s been unequivocal in his support for Israel. He vigorously tried to have language included in the Senate’s Iran nuclear bill forcing the country to recognize Israel’s right to exist but had to back away from the provision in the committee process in order to build bipartisan support for the overall bill.

He’s also been a fierce opponent of the president’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, arguing that the U.S. should continue to ostracize the communist country’s leader Raul Castro until he is deposed.

Today he called for for ‘moral clarity regarding America’s core values’ and assert that America ‘is a global leader not just because it has superior arms, but because it has superior aims.’

He also said he’d keep Guantanamo Bay open, if elected, because it’s the proper place for enemy combatants who are removed from the battlefield.

 

 

 

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President Obama Defends Iran Nuclear Deal As “Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity”

Obama IranPresident Barack Obama staunchly defended a framework nuclear agreement with Iran as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to prevent a bomb and bring longer-term stability to the Middle East. He insisted the U.S. would stand by Israel if it were to come under attack, but acknowledged that his pursuit of diplomacy with Tehran has caused strain with the close ally.

“It’s been a hard period,” Obama said in a weekend interview with Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times. He added that it is “personally difficult” for him to hear his administration accused of not looking out for Israel’s interests.

Now in his seventh year in office, Obama cast the Iran talks as part of a broader foreign policy doctrine that sees American power as a safeguard that gives him the ability to take calculated risks.

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk,” he said, citing his overtures to Cuba and Myanmar as other examples of his approach.

The president’s comments come days after the U.S. and other world powers reached a tentative agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The framework cleared the way for negotiators to hammer out technical details ahead of a June 30 deadline for a final deal.

Obama argued that successful negotiations presented the most effective way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but insisted he would keep all options on the table if Tehran were to violate the terms.

“I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it,” Obama said in the interview published Sunday. “But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.”

The president said there are many details that still need to be worked out with the Iranians and cautioned that there would be “real political difficulties” in implementing an agreement in both countries. He reiterated his opposition to a legislation that would give the U.S. Congress final say in approving or rejecting a deal, but said he hoped to find a path to allow Congress to “express itself.”

The White House plans an aggressive campaign to sell the deal to Congress, as well as to skeptical Arab allies who worry about Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region. The president has invited leaders of six Gulf nations to Washington this spring and said he wanted to “formalize” U.S. assistance.

On the substance of the Iran framework agreement, Obama outlined more specifics of how the U.S. would seek to verify that Tehran wasn’t cheating. He said there would be an “international mechanism” that would assess whether there needed to be an inspection at a suspicious site and could overrule Iranian objections.

The nuclear talks have marked a remarkable shift in the frozen relationship between the U.S. and Iran. It has become normal for officials from both countries to communicate and hold face-to-face meetings. Obama is yet to meet with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, though they did speak on the phone. He has also exchanged letters with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Obama said the letters include “a lot of reminders of what he perceives as past grievances against Iran.” But he said the concessions Khamenei allowed his negotiators to make in the nuclear talks suggests that “he does realize that the sanctions regime that we put together was weakening Iran over the long term, and that if in fact he wanted to see Iran re-enter the community of nations, then there were going to have to be changes.”

 

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Sen. Marco Rubio Expected To Announce Presidential Intentions April 13

MarcoSen. Marco Rubio will announce his presidential intentions April 13 in Miami, using an appearance Monday afternoon on Fox News to build suspense for a decision that he has been working toward for quite a while.

Asked about reports he had booked the Freedom Tower in Miami on that date for an undisclosed event, Rubio said he had not reserved a specific site yet, “but I will announce on April 13 what I’m going to do next in terms of running for president or the U.S. Senate.”

Pressed on whether he would announce a White House bid, Rubio said: “I’ll announce something on April 13.”

His website, marcorubio.com, promised: “A big announcement is coming! Will you be there?”

Rubio has said he would not run for both offices on 2016’s ballots, and his team has been moving ahead as though it was putting together a White House bid, including donors who helped previous presidential nominees collect tens of millions of dollars.

But Rubio faces steep challenges to the nomination, including from his one-time mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Rubio could face as many as 20 other rivals for the GOP nomination.

“You’ll have to tune in on April 13,” Rubio said during his appearance on Fox News Channel, a favorite of GOP presidential hopefuls.

Rubio plans to sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05, a nod to Miami’s 305 area code. It is also a way for the nascent campaign to collect contact information from everyone who wants to be in the audience that day, including low-dollar donors.

A first-generation immigrant whose parents fled Cuba, Rubio could make history as the nation’s first Hispanic president. Rubio frames his pitch to voters as the embodiment of the American dream, a son of a maid and bartender who worked his way through law school and now sits in Congress.

His is an appealing story for a party that has struggled to connect with minority and younger voters. Those voters have been solidly behind Democrats in recent presidential elections. Rubio’s advisers see his candidacy as a way to eat into that Democratic bloc, even if capturing it would be almost impossible.

Rubio is also likely to skip a re-election bid to his Senate seat. He had long said he would not simultaneously run for two offices, and his political advisers have told party leaders that they should start recruiting a candidate to run for his Senate seat.

But Rubio faces a hurdle with some conservative activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over his work on a failed bipartisan immigration bill that included a long and difficult pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally. The measure cleared the Senate but collapsed in the House in the face of conservative suspicion. Rubio ultimately wants to create a process that leads to legal status and, then, citizenship.

While he’s drawn interest from Republican kingmakers, he routinely polls in the middle of the likely field, recently drawing 7% support in a CNN/ORC poll.

His announcement is one of a handful of expected presidential launches in a busy April as the contest gears up.

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Scott Walker Refuses to Criticize President Obama While in London

Scott WalkerWisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday during a swing through London that there are “very real threats” around the world, but he refused to share his foreign policy vision, saying he is there on a trade mission and that it is impolite to take potshots at President Obama during trips abroad.

The United Kingdom is becoming a regular stop for the emerging field of 2016 GOP White House contenders, who are eager to bolster their foreign policy chops, and make sure that the party does not cede ground on global issues to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also recently traveled to London where they criticized President Obama on foreign policy.

Mr. Walker took a different tact.

“I just don’t think it is wise to undermine the president of your own country,” Mr. Walker said.

“I prefer being old fashioned and having respect for the president,” he said. “I just don’t think you talk about foreign policy when you are on foreign soil.”

Mr. Walker would only say that he knows, through the risk assessments he receives as governor, that there are “very real threats in this risks in this world not only around the world, but in our own country.”

“We take those very seriously,” Mr. Walker said.

His remarks came during an appearance at the Chatham House in London, where Mr. Walker spoke for about 15 minutes. He said the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom is built on “shared values.”

“Together we triumphed over the forces of evil, not once, but twice during two different world wars, and it is why we will conquer the new forces of evil that have affected the world even as we speak today,” he said.

During a question and answer session, Mr. Walker punted when given the chance to weigh in on the threat from the Islamic State and on whether the United States should “arm the Ukrainian rebels.”

“When I return to the states, I will probably give you an answer,” Mr. Walker said. “I don’t think it is polite to respond on policy regarding the United States interactions with other countries when you are in a foreign country.”

“I defer to the president, even though I don’t always believe in the same things he does politically,” he said. He noted that “a few of late” had weighed in on the Obama administration’s approach. “I just think it does against common practice.”

Mr. Christie traveled to London earlier this month, where he did not give a formal address during his trip to England, but did criticize Mr. Obama’s negotiations with Iran and Cuba.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also delivered a speech in London last month in which he slammed the prospect of so-called Muslim “no-go zones” and suggested that the Obama administration has weakened the nation in international affairs.

“The events of the past several years clearly suggest that America’s allies are often less than certain that they can count on us, and our enemies too often do not fear us,” Mr. Jindal said.

Fresh off his third election win in four years, Mr. Walker has shot to the front of the pack in early 2016 polls.

The Des Moines Register also reported Tuesday that Mr. Walker because the first 2016 presidential hopeful to open an office in Iowa.

 

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President Obama Delivers A Predictable State Of The Union Addess

SOTUPresident Barack Obama urged the nation Tuesday night to “turn the page” on years of economic troubles, terrorism and lengthy wars, arguing that his presidency had ushered in an era of smarter American leadership and a growing U.S. economy.

“It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come,” Obama said in excerpts released ahead of his State of the Union address.

Obama was speaking to a Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time in his presidency. But the policies he was calling for suggested he had no plans to curtail his own agenda in favour of GOP priorities.

Instead, Obama was proposing higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans with the revenue to be used to pay for middle class tax credits and to make community college free. But key elements of the president’s economic proposals appear unlikely to pass Congress, and he appeared to also be focused on setting a tone for the 2016 election and selling the story of an economy now ready to move off austerity footing.

“The verdict is clear,” Obama said. “Middle class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.”

New Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, giving the Republican response, called for cooperation, too, saying, “There’s a lot we can achieve if we work together.” But Ernst, in her prepared remarks, saw a less rosy version of the economy than Obama’s, and she took him to task.

“We see our neighbours agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. We see the hurt caused by cancelled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills,” she said. “But when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare. It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.”

While the economy was expected to dominate the president’s address, he was also promoting his recent decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and to launch a military campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. In two potential areas of compromise with Republicans, he was to call on Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation and a new authorization for military action in the Middle East.

“I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL,” Obama said, referring to the Islamic State group.

The centerpiece of the president’s address was to be a bread-and-butter Democratic tax proposal that could increase the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 annually to 28 percent, require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they’re inherited and slap a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion.

Much of the $320 billion in new taxes and fees would be used for measures aimed at helping the middle class, including a $500 tax credit for some families with two spouses working, expansion of the child care tax credit and a $60 billion program to make community college free.

Obama also is asking lawmakers to increase paid leave for workers. And he’s moved unilaterally to lower a mortgage insurance rate that could help attract first-time homebuyers.

The White House rolled out many of the president’s most significant proposals ahead of the speech. And rather than deliver an address littered with policy proposals, administration official said Obama instead planned to talk more about the values that undergird his agenda and promote a story of economic recovery.

Indeed, the economy is on stronger footing than at any other point in Obama’s presidency, with growth on the upswing and an unemployment rate below 6 percent. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cast Obama’s proposals for building on the economic gains as little more than “talking-point proposals designed to excite the base but not designed to pass.”

McConnell urged Obama to work with Republicans to shore up Medicare and Social Security and balance the budget, not just propose “more tired tax hikes.”

Both the White House and Republicans stacked their guest lists for Tuesday’s prime-time address with people who put a human face on their policy positions.

Among those scheduled to sit with first lady Michelle Obama were Chelsey Davis, a student from Tennessee who plans to graduate from a community college in May; Dr. Pranav Shetty, who has been working on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and Alan Gross, who was released from a Cuban prison last month as part of Obama’s decision to normalize relations with the communist island nation.

House Speaker John Boehner announced that his guest would be Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, who spent 17 years in a Cuban prison. Florida Republican Sen. Macro Rubio was bringing Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, whose father was a well-known Cuban dissident who was killed in a car accident that his family believes was suspicious.

Obama was touting his decision to resume relations with Cuba after a half-century of estrangement. He wants Congress to lift the decades-long economic embargo on Cuba, though administration officials say they don’t expect lawmakers to move on that request quickly.

Other foreign policy matters expected to get a mention in the State of the Union address were the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The morning after the State of the Union, Obama was headed to a pair of conservative-leaning states to promote his agenda for his seventh year in office: Idaho and Kansas.

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McCain Offers Obama Glimmer of Hope on Gitmo Closure

McCainAn unlikely ally is offering a glimmer of hope that President Barack Obama can make good on his vow to close Guantanamo Bay before leaving office.

Republican Sen. John McCain, a fierce critic of Obama’s foreign policy, is about to take the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. He says it’s still possible the war on terror camp in Cuba could be shut down but warns that the administration will have to come up with a clear plan to overcome Republican opposition.

Asked in an interview whether he was prepared to help his old political foe, despite a congressional ban on sending detainees to the U.S. mainland, McCain said, “I am prepared to and I think it can be done.”

But he warned that ever since he started talking to the administration about Guantanamo Bay in 2009, it had “never come forward with a plan as to how we treat those individuals that have been judged as too dangerous to ever be released, and that is the hang-up.”

McCain, himself a former prisoner of war, has long favored closing Guantanamo Bay, which critics say stains the reputation of the United States and is a recruiting tool for terrorists. But key players in Congress, including many senior Republicans, have barred funding for the administration to send remaining inmates elsewhere or to build facilities on the U.S. mainland.

Speculation about the camp’s future is being stoked by the recent transfers of a group of prisoners to Uruguay last week. The U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001 is also back in the spotlight because of the recent release of a Senate report on enhanced interrogation tactics critics say equate to torture.

McCain said he thought that Republican opposition could be overcome, if the administration laid out exactly how it believed it could close Guantanamo.

“If I went to the members of the committee today and said, ‘Look they are going to be moved to a maximum security prison in some location in the United States of America and we have a plan for that transfer, I think most of them would be perfectly happy about that,” McCain said.

Last weekend, the Obama administration sent six Guantanamo Bay detainees to Uruguay for resettlement as refugees as part of its plan to depopulate the camp prior to its closure.

Four of the former detainees Ahmed Adnan Ahjam, Ali Hussain Shaabaan, Omar Mahmoud Faraj, and Jihad Diyab are Syrian nationals, while Abdul Bin Mohammed Abis Ourgy is Tunisian, and Mohammed Tahanmatan is Palestinian, according to Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

I just don’t think that is trustworthy,” McCain said, adding that former inmates needed re-education to ensure they did not return to extremism.

“I am very concerned,” he said.

Republicans complain that released detainees are not sufficiently monitored when they leave Guantanamo Bay, and cite figures saying that nearly 30 percent of those released are back in the fight against U.S. forces.

The transfers leave only 136 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, out of an peak population of more than 750. That’s the lowest number of inmates at the base in Cuba since detainees started arriving in 2002.

But that leaves the most problematic prisoners, including those who the administration says are too dangerous to be released, and cannot be tried in civilian courts as they are considered enemy combatants or the evidence against them is seen as tainted because it was obtained under duress.

The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Obama remained determined to close Guantanamo Bay, and was prepared to use executive power to do so if Congress would not go along.

Since he won re-election in 2012, Obama has appointed special envoys at the Defense and State departments to try to get foreign countries to accept more foreign detainees. He has also lifted the moratorium on lifting sending Yemeni prisoners back home.

Nearly all Guantanamo prisoners are being held without charges, and while about half of those are considered high-level threat detainees, the remainder were determined to be low-level threats by a task force of top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Those in the latter group could gain their freedom, provided security conditions could first be met in their host countries.

In December 2010, Congress amended the annual defense budget bill to prevent the transfer of any Guantanamo detainees to the United States. That defeated the Obama administration’s plans announced a year earlier to try several Guantanamo detainees involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in U.S. federal court.

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