President Barack Obama formally notified Congress on Tuesday that he will remove Cuba from the government's list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The National Security Council announced the move in a tweet:
Today POTUS submitted to Congress statutorily required report & certifications indicating Admin’s intent to rescind #Cuba’s SSOT designation— WH National Security (@NSCPress) April 14, 2015
The move was widely expected, as Obama announced last year that he wanted to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries, and Cuba has said it will only take this step if it is taken off the list. Countries placed on the list are subject to sanctions, such as a ban on defense-related goods and limitations on the ability to sell "dual-use" goods, which have both civilian and military applications.
Obama's whole effort to reach out to Cuba has run into opposition by Republicans and Democrats who say Obama is making several concessions to Cuba without asking anything in return. Several members have said Obama should have asked for the return of U.S. fugitives, an improved human rights regime, and even steps toward democratic rule in Cuba.
The Obama administration has made none of these demands so far, and instead has said simply that it's time for the two countries to re-establish their relationship.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement that the decision was made "after a careful review of Cuba's record, which was informed by the intelligence community." Based on those assessments and assurances from Cuba, Secretary of State John Kerry recommended taking Cuba off the list, and Obama approved that recommendation.
Obama notified Congress of his decision in a short, one-page letter that said Obama believes Cuba has met the conditions for being taken off the state sponsors of terrorism list. Those conditions are the absence of any support for international terrorism during the last six months, and assurances from Cuba that it will not support terrorism in the future.
Obama is required by law to notify Congress of his decision, which will take effect 45 days after notification. While there is no formal process by which Congress can agree or disagree, the notification could inspire members to pass legislation aimed at blocking Obama's move.
The announcement came just days after Obama spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro by phone, just before the Summit of the Americans in Panama.
Read Obama's letter to Congress here: