Priorities: Oil, Environment, Iran – and Cuba?

It’s being billed as the “irony of ironies.”

It’s the Cuba-China plan for oil drilling on Cuba’s side of the Florida Strait, less than 50 miles from Key West. India also could collaborate. And it’s all legal. Since 1977 — and renewed less than six months ago — the United States and Cuba have agreed by treaty to be rational about something: we will divide the Strait and preserve each other’s economic rights. That includes, perforce, the commodity of commodities — oil.

But the U.S., of course, is precluded from any involvement. Too environmentally close to drill, which is true, and too politically explosive to explore sensible options, which is a travesty. Except for the treaty, ironically, normal diplomatic compromise has been largely oxymoronic throughout the 43 fruitless years of the Cuban trade embargo.

Time to go unilateral again.

To that end, Florida’s Democratic Senator Bill Nelson has introduced a measure that would block renewal of that (recently renewed) 1977 treaty and deny foreign companies access to U.S. markets if they were to persist in drilling off the coast of Cuba. The denial and revocation of (foreign executives’) visas is part of the Nelson bill.

Not exactly the Dale Carnegie approach to foreign policy. In a world with too many countries already looking geopolitically askance at the U.S., the timing couldn’t be worse for such Strait talk.

But then Florida’s other senator, the Republican Mel Martinez, reverts to parochial form. As in pandering to South Florida’s Cuban-American exile crowd. No, he hasn’t signed on to the Nelson bill. But Martinez’s press secretary, Ken Lundberg, explains – to the degree possible — his reasoning: the Nelson measure “could present problems with the entire Cuban embargo. There’s no question there are some who might use this (oil issue) as leverage to reopen the entire situation.”

Dios mio! Say it ain’t so, Mel.

The real issues here are energy, the environment and America’s credibility in trying to rally support for sanctions against a truly legitimate target — the uranium-enriching Iran of the apocalyptic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And Martinez is concerned about how the counterproductive Cuban embargo may be impacted?

We’re beset by the unholy alliance of energy crisis and civilizational clash and Martinez is still stuck in a time warp, fighting the Cold War.

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