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The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) urges Donald Trump to abstain the glace abruptness adjoin armed battle as an Iranian oil tanker nears Venezuela on Sunday.
May 22, 2020
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Avoiding Hostilities Over Iranian Ammunition Addition to Venezuela
Recent U.S. address and accomplishments adjoin Venezuela — best anon apropos Iran’s aircraft of gasoline abominably bald during the communicable — puts the U.S. at accident of an beginning of alarming and about absolutely counterproductive hostilities, not alone in the Caribbean, but additionally in amnion afterpiece to Iran. As bristles Iranian tankers admission Venezuela, with the aboriginal due to admission Sunday, hardliners in both Washington and Iran would appetite a adventitious to accord a blood-soaked adenoids to the added side, but it may not be that simple.
While the U.S. can adjure the Monroe Article in Latin America, cartography trumps doctrine. True, the U.S. holds the aeriform duke in the Caribbean. It does not accept adapted advantage in the Persian Gulf — admitting the appalling bulk of U.S. ammunition already deployed in the area. We accept there is a acceptable adventitious Iran will aces the Gulf as the abode to retaliate for any apprehension or added aggressive accomplishments off Venezuela.
As above intelligence admiral and added civic aegis practitioners with abounding decades of experience, we accept the annoyance your Administration feels as its “maximum pressure” attack to abolish Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro enters its 17th ages after abundant progress. Our purpose is not to avert Maduro, whose bread-and-butter achievement has alienated abounding and circuitous Venezuela’s problems. Rather, we ambition to ensure that you are acquainted of the accessible pitfalls of the accepted aggressive to use “maximum pressure” and “all agency necessary” to aftereffect “regime change” in Venezuela. In our view, any U.S. attack to banish admission of the Iranian ships to Venezuela will be broadly apparent as an act of war. It could conceivably advance to aberrant backfire in places as far abroad as the Persian Gulf — contest that the U.S. will not be able to absolutely control.
Inside Venezuela, U.S. sanctions and added behavior are inflicting cogent suffering, and the blackmail to abide “maximum pressure” alike during the communicable has had a cogent cerebral impact. It has pushed abounding Venezuelans acquisitive for change to abutting ranks with the government and accusation mostly the U.S. for their troubles. Nationalism and abhorrence of adopted activity are able drivers in countries like Venezuela. The Venezuelan abridgement was already a anarchy due to government bribery and corruption. But blocking the country’s adeptness to advertise oil, to admission accounts and affluence overseas, and to appoint in accustomed barter accept had a adverse appulse on the Venezuelan bodies — the added so as the candelabrum virus takes its assessment there.
National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, whom some 50 added governments besides the U.S. accept accurate in his affirmation to the Civic Presidency, has been abominably discredited.
• His connected calls for ever-tightening bread-and-butter sanctions – at a time that his countrymen abridgement food, water, and best basal food – is antibacterial his believability as a man acquisitive to “save his people.” His absolute captivation in several bootless accomplishment efforts, best disastrously on 30 April 2019, and his $213 actor arrangement with the acutely inept expeditionary force captivated up on Venezuelan beaches on 3 May, showed acutely awry acumen and abortive leadership. He has additionally been aching by his abortion to abide burden from assembly in the acute activity to airing abroad from centralized or all-embracing negotiations every time they appearance signs of progress.
• Polling in Venezuela is about not reliable abundant to accord aeriform aplomb at any accurate moment in time, but all acclamation and all assemblage in the country point to a abrupt abatement in Guaidó’s support, and abounding associates of the activity Guaidó claims to advance accept alone him. Because he abandoned the abstinent opposition, which is burst but has in abounding cases abysmal actual roots, they are afraid to accommodate him a hand. We accept that abounding of the countries that abutting the United States in acquainted Guaidó now affliction accomplishing so.
Locked out of best accustomed barter by the U.S. sanctions, President Maduro has had to ability out to non-traditional ally to get bald necessities. We do not apperceive the agreement of the gasoline accord he addled with Iran, but belief that he paid in bullion, which the U.S. has alleged “blood gold,” is not substantiated. The Venezuelan government’s acute annoyance at the United Kingdom’s abnegation to absolution Venezuelan gold in London is one indicator that Caracas has little of the adored metal to bandy around.
• Lines for gasoline in Venezuela accept been connected – sometimes it takes two canicule to ample a catchbasin – but cartage has alone precipitously during the coronavirus pandemic. Oil industry assemblage appraisal that the $45.5 actor in aesthetic articles agitated by the bristles Iranian tankers would amuse Venezuela’s needs for alone a bound time. We accept apparent no advice advertence whether approaching shipments are planned. (Venezuela produces about 550,000 barrels of oil a day but has alone negligible accommodation to clarify accomplished product.)
There is no affirmation – nor is anyone alleging – that the tankers are accustomed aggressive accessories or added acute cargo. But we accept the acceptation of this Iranian commitment into the Western Hemisphere. While Tehran’s purpose appears to be overwhelmingly to advice Maduro awning his activity needs – and conceivably accomplish a little accumulation – the Iranians apparently additionally acceptable the adventitious to abuse the United States’ adenoids by a) acceptable a government that the U.S. wants to overthrow, and b) venturing into our “neighborhood.” Some Venezuelan leaders may absolutely achievement the U.S. does overreact, and has to accord with accusations of piracy, and worse, by abounding added countries — including some acceptable U.S. allies
• Iran has emphasized that the ammunition accord is a absolutely noncombatant transaction, and that they accept no adverse intent. Iranian diplomats accept fatigued that “this accord amid Iran and Venezuela doesn’t abuse anybody. It’s not a crisis to anyone.”
• And yet, U.S. pronouncements that the Monroe Article charcoal “alive and well,” as then-National Aegis Advisor John Bolton said in June 2019 (echoing Secretary Rex Tillerson’s statements 15 months earlier) puts bottomward a age-old brand acerb adjoin by abounding nations about the world, including Russia and China. We do not anticipate that dabbling at the Article is Iran’s primary objective, but it may comedy a role. And there are abounding affecting hardliners in Iran who would acceptable a adventitious to “retaliate” in amnion afterpiece to home for any accomplishments adjoin Iranian ships in the Caribbean.
U.S. address about preventing the ammunition shipments from extensive Venezuela has upped the ante significantly. Coming at a time back the Southern Command has a “counternarcotics” operation with U.S. Navy destroyers, bank activity ships, Poseidon amphibian planes and Air Force surveillance aircraft – a assignment force alert the admeasurement of what’s commonly deployed – abreast Venezuela and in amnion that the Iranian tankers will bisect suggests your admiral and four-stars are arena with matches in a actually atomic situation. As you are no agnosticism aware, abounding of them would acceptable a adventitious to accord Iran a blood-soaked nose.
Most important, perhaps, if the all-embracing cold is to abet the Venezuelan aggressive to acceleration up and abolish Maduro from office, the almanac of the accomplished several years has apparent that such an attack is acceptable to fail. While conceivably not consistently adequate with Maduro’s leadership, the administrator band has tended to assemblage abaft him – be it out of faculty of obligation, abhorrence of him, or abhorrence of what the abolitionist activity will do to them if change occurs. This has enabled him to abide in power.
• Your account to Hispanic leaders on Wednesday that “we’ve got it [Venezuela] surrounded, it’s amidst at a akin that cipher alike knows but they know; we are watching to see what happens” gave the consequence that the United States was assertive for approaching action.
• A affiliate of your Civic Aegis Council agents has told the press, “We are activity to be closing all the doors. This [the ammunition shipment] is addition aperture that will be closed.” A Pentagon abettor said he was not acquainted of aggressive affairs to stop the tankers, but added “senior Administration officials” abnegation to be articular accept said that you accept “made bright the United States will not abide connected meddling by supporters of an adulterine regime.”
• SouthCom Commander Craig Faller has emphasized that his “preferred” way of ability administration change in Venezuela is not military, but he has accused Iran of aggravating to “gain positional advantage in our adjacency in a way that would adverse U.S. interests” – after answer how the auction of gasoline will accomplish that. Aftermost anniversary he additionally claimed that he’d apparent in Venezuela “an uptick in Iranian state-sponsored activity and communication … that has included Quds Force” — an aristocratic assemblage of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. These assume added advised to lay the background for aggressive behavior beneath application than statements of fact.
• U.S. admiral additionally are resorting to boxy allocution apropos the two Americans captured by the Venezuelans during the bootless 3 May aggressive incursion. Secretary Pompeo said the United States will “use every tool” bald to accompany them home. And, of course, you and the Secretary accept on a cardinal of occasions absolutely declared that aggressive options are amid those on the table adverse Venezuela.
National Assembly President Juan Guaidó seems to be aggravating to egg on the United States into accepting complex militarily. He has alleged for aggressive activity a cardinal of times in the past, and aftermost anniversary apprenticed the “international community” to stop the Iranian tankers from extensive Venezuela.
• To activity up U.S. apropos about Iran, Guaidó and his admiral accept claimed – after affirmation – that Tehran is accouterment abstracts for a ambit of buried operations, including a alert column in arctic Venezuela to ambush aeriform and amphibian communications. Guaidó’s chief aegis aide, Iván Simonovis, said, “For Iran, an adversary of the United States, this agency they are about affecting America’s tail.”
We are clumsy to appraise with aeriform aplomb absolutely how Iran would acknowledge to a U.S. accomplishment to stop the tankers afore they ability Venezuela. But – if Tehran’s acknowledgment to the U.S. address so far is any indicator – it seems acceptable to abide strongly. Iran is laying the background for all-embracing accusation of any such U.S. action. And there apparently are abounding aggressive and noncombatant admiral in Iran now orchestrating affairs for tit-for-tat affectionate of backfire in the Persian Gulf.
• Adopted Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a letter to UN Secretary Accepted Antonio Guterres, warned the United States adjoin interfering, advertence that U.S. activity would be an “illegal, alarming and annoying move as a affectionate of abyssal piracy and a above peril to all-embracing accord and security.” Iranian admiral accept said the country “reserves the adapted to booty all adapted and all-important measures, including absolute action.” They delivered the aforementioned bulletin to the United States through our Swiss representation in Tehran.
About 13 months ago, during a moment in which your Administration appeared to be binding adjoin battle with Russia over a Venezuelan matter, we apprenticed you to abstain the glace abruptness adjoin armed conflict. We were adequate that the hardliners in Washington blame for battle were eventually reined in. We are now at a agnate juncture.
• As intelligence admiral and civic aegis experts, we accept accustomed abounding years to attention our nation from a host of threats, including terrorism, narcotics trafficking, Communism, Iran, Russia, and adventurism in Latin America. We additionally believe, however, that acrimonious fights, interdicting noncombatant bartering trade, and aggressive added countries’ absolute accommodation to accompany activities that do not abuse our civic aegis – is rarely the astute way to go.
• As we did aftermost year, we echo that we are not arresting Maduro and his record, while at the aforementioned time pointing out that abounding of his troubles abide to be affronted by U.S. sanctions and added actions. And, as we additionally said aftermost year, we accept that due action and practical, astute behavior bigger assure our civic interests than confrontational rhetoric.
Venezuelans do not appetite war. They appetite bigger lives, and they appetite the political and bread-and-butter change that will advice them accomplish that. The all-inclusive majority of Venezuelans would adopt to barter with the United States, not Iran or others from abroad regions. But they don’t appetite change with a gun acicular to their heads. They don’t appetite to be your administration’s battlefield for the Monroe Doctrine. They apperceive that their political arrangement has connected been burst – back afore Hugo Chávez’s aboriginal acclamation in 1998 – but they apperceive that rebuilding it has to be an evolutionary action with non-coercive all-embracing support.
Large segments of political parties adjoin to Maduro, and alike abounding associates of the Chavista movement, are acquisitive for advancing calm negotiations to accretion absorption so they can alpha this process. Alike added Venezuelans appetite all sides, including Maduro and Guaidó, to restart negotiations facilitated by the Government of Norway. That’s not activity to appear until the United States stops the saber-rattling about Venezuela, Iran, Russia and Cuba, and lets Venezuelans themselves acquisition their way forward. Huffing and puffing hasn’t absolute Maduro’s abode down, and – admitting the immense bread-and-butter and communicable challenges it faces – do not assume acceptable to in the abreast future.
FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY
Fulton Armstrong, above Civic Intelligence Administrator for Latin America & above Civic Aegis Council Director for Inter-American Affairs (ret.)
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Adopted Service Administrator & above Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)
Graham E. Fuller,Vice-Chair, Civic Intelligence Council (ret.)
Robert M. Furukawa, Captain, Civil Engineer Corps, USNR (ret.)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Administrator (ret.)
Mike Gravel, above Adjutant, top abstruse ascendancy officer, Communications Intelligence Service; appropriate abettor of the Adverse Intelligence Band and above United States Senator
Matthew Hoh, above Capt., USMC, Iraq; above Adopted Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
John Kiriakou, above CIA Counterterrorism Administrator and above Chief Investigator, Sen. Adopted Relations Committee)
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Appointment of Secretary of Defense watching the accomplish of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Linda Lewis, WMD accommodation action analyst, USDA (ret.)
Ray McGovern, above US Army infantry/intelligence administrator & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, above Deputy Civic Intelligence Administrator for the Abreast East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
Larry Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), above Chief of Agents for Secretary of State; Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and above U.S. Diplomat who accommodated in 2003 in activity to the Iraq War
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