WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today asked President Obama to reconcile strong engagement with the Cuban government amid reports of Cuban troops’ fighting on the side of Russia and Iran in bolstering the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Russia’s actions in Syria appear to be in direct contradiction to your statement of more than four years ago that ‘the time has come for President Assad to step aside,’ ” Grassley wrote to the President today.  “And now, Cuba is acting as a military partner to Russia and Assad.  It’s disconcerting that in light of your new relationship with Cuba, the Castro regime has chosen to align with Russia and Iran in supporting Assad in Syria.  You’ve called on Congress to take further actions to engage Cuba and normalize relations.  However, just months after your ‘historic step forward’ the regime of Raul Castro has essentially thumbed its nose at the U.S. by aligning with Russia, Iran and Assad in combating rebel fighters backed by the United States.”

Grassley’s letter continues, “Are you disappointed by Cuba’s decision to provide military support with Russia to back Assad?  What actions do you plan to take with regard to Cuba’s military involvement in Syria?  What message have you or your administration conveyed to the Cuban government regarding its actions?”

On Thursday afternoon, the President hosted the newly installed Cuban ambassador to the United States and a Cuban band at the White House.

The text of Grassley’s letter is available here.