VIPS MEMO: To the President—Avoid Hostilities Over Iranian Fuel Shipment to Venezuela

The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) urges Donald Trump to avoid the slippery slope toward armed conflict as an Iranian oil tanker nears Venezuela on Sunday.

Iranian oil tanker of a type sailing towards Venezuela. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

May 22, 2020

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Avoiding Hostilities Over Iranian Fuel Shipment to Venezuela

Mr. President:

Recent U.S. rhetoric and actions against Venezuela — most immediately regarding Iran’s shipping of gasoline desperately needed during the pandemic — puts the U.S. at risk of an outbreak of dangerous and almost certainly counterproductive hostilities, not only in the Caribbean, but also in waters closer to Iran. As five Iranian tankers approach Venezuela, with the first due to arrive Sunday, hardliners in both Washington and Iran would relish a chance to give a bloody nose to the other side, but it may not be that simple. 

While the U.S. can invoke the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America, geography trumps doctrine. True, the U.S. holds the upper hand in the Caribbean. It does not have tactical advantage in the Persian Gulf — despite the formidable amount of U.S. weaponry already deployed in the area. We believe there is a good chance Iran will pick the Gulf as the place to retaliate for any quarantine or more warlike actions off Venezuela.

As former intelligence officers and other national security practitioners with many decades of experience, we understand the frustration your Administration feels as its “maximum pressure” campaign to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro enters its 17th month without much progress. Our purpose is not to defend Maduro, whose economic performance has alienated many and compounded Venezuela’s problems. Rather, we wish to ensure that you are aware of the possible pitfalls of the general threatening to use “maximum pressure” and “all means necessary” to effect “regime change” in Venezuela. In our view, any U.S. attempt to interdict access of the Iranian ships to Venezuela will be widely seen as an act of war. It could conceivably lead to unprecedented retaliation in places as far away as the Persian Gulf — events that the U.S. will not be able to fully control.

Inside Venezuela, U.S. sanctions and other policies are inflicting significant suffering, and the threat to continue “maximum pressure” even during the pandemic has had a significant psychological impact. It has pushed many Venezuelans eager for change to close ranks with the government and blame mostly the U.S. for their troubles. Nationalism and fear of foreign intervention are strong drivers in countries like Venezuela. The Venezuelan economy was already a shambles due to government mismanagement and corruption. But blocking the country’s ability to sell oil, to access accounts and reserves overseas, and to engage in normal trade have had a devastating impact on the Venezuelan people — the more so as the corona virus takes its toll there.

National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, whom some 50 other governments besides the U.S. have supported in his claim to the National Presidency, has been badly discredited.

• His continued calls for ever-tightening economic sanctions – at a time that his countrymen lack food, water, and most basic supplies – is destroying his credibility as a man eager to “save his people.” His direct involvement in several failed coup efforts, most disastrously on 30 April 2019, and his $213 million contract with the obviously inept expeditionary force wrapped up on Venezuelan beaches on 3 May, showed deeply flawed judgment and ineffective leadership. He has also been hurt by his failure to resist pressure from comrades in the extreme opposition to walk away from internal or international negotiations every time they show signs of progress.

• Polling in Venezuela is generally not reliable enough to give high confidence at any particular moment in time, but all polls and all observers in the country point to a steep decline in Guaidó’s support, and many members of the opposition Guaidó claims to lead have abandoned him. Because he ignored the moderate opposition, which is fragmented but has in many cases deep historical roots, they are unwilling to lend him a hand. We understand that many of the countries that joined the United States in recognizing Guaidó now regret doing so.

Locked out of most normal trade by the U.S. sanctions, President Maduro has had to reach out to non-traditional partners to get bare necessities. We do not know the terms of the gasoline deal he struck with Iran, but speculation that he paid in bullion, which the U.S. has called “blood gold,” is not substantiated. The Venezuelan government’s extreme frustration at the United Kingdom’s refusal to release Venezuelan gold in London is one indicator that Caracas has little of the precious metal to throw around.

• Lines for gasoline in Venezuela have been long – sometimes it takes two days to fill a tank – but traffic has dropped precipitously during the coronavirus pandemic. Oil industry observers estimate that the $45.5 million in refined products carried by the five Iranian tankers would satisfy Venezuela’s needs for only a limited time. We have seen no information indicating whether future shipments are planned. (Venezuela produces about 550,000 barrels of oil a day but has only negligible capacity to refine finished product.)

There is no evidence – nor is anyone alleging – that the tankers are carrying military equipment or other sensitive cargo. But we understand the significance of this Iranian delivery into the Western Hemisphere. While Tehran’s purpose appears to be overwhelmingly to help Maduro cover his energy needs – and perhaps make a little profit – the Iranians probably also welcome the chance to tweak the United States’ nose by a) aiding a government that the U.S. wants to overthrow, and b) venturing into our “neighborhood.” Some Venezuelan leaders may actually hope the U.S. does overreact, and has to deal with accusations of piracy, and worse, by many other countries — including some traditional U.S. allies

• Iran has emphasized that the fuel deal is a purely civilian transaction, and that they have no hostile intent. Iranian diplomats have stressed that “this relationship between Iran and Venezuela doesn’t threaten anybody. It’s not a danger to anyone.”

• And yet, U.S. pronouncements that the Monroe Doctrine remains “alive and well,” as then-National Security Advisor John Bolton said in June 2019 (echoing Secretary Rex Tillerson’s statements 15 months earlier) puts down a hoary marker strongly opposed by many nations around the world, including Russia and China. We do not think that poking at the Doctrine is Iran’s primary objective, but it may play a role. And there are many influential hardliners in Iran who would welcome a chance to “retaliate” in waters closer to home for any actions against Iranian ships in the Caribbean.

U.S. rhetoric about preventing the fuel shipments from reaching Venezuela has upped the ante significantly. Coming at a time when the Southern Command has a “counternarcotics” operation with U.S. Navy destroyers, littoral combat ships, Poseidon maritime planes and Air Force surveillance aircraft – a task force twice the size of what’s normally deployed – near Venezuela and in waters that the Iranian tankers will traverse suggests your advisers and four-stars are playing with matches in a literally explosive situation. As you are no doubt aware, many of them would welcome a chance to give Iran a bloody nose.

Most important, perhaps, if the overall objective is to instigate the Venezuelan military to rise up and remove Maduro from office, the record of the past several years has shown that such an attempt is likely to fail. While perhaps not always comfortable with Maduro’s leadership, the officer corps has tended to rally behind him – be it out of sense of obligation, fear of him, or fear of what the radical opposition will do to them if change occurs. This has enabled him to remain in power.

• Your statement to Hispanic leaders on Wednesday that “we’ve got it [Venezuela] surrounded, it’s surrounded at a level that nobody even knows but they know; we are watching to see what happens” gave the impression that the United States was poised for imminent action.

• A member of your National Security Council staff has told the press, “We are going to be closing all the doors. This [the fuel shipment] is another door that will be closed.” A Pentagon spokesman said he was not aware of military plans to stop the tankers, but other “senior Administration officials” refusing to be identified have said that you have “made clear the United States will not tolerate continued meddling by supporters of an illegitimate regime.”

• SouthCom Commander Craig Faller has emphasized that his “preferred” way of effecting regime change in Venezuela is not military, but he has accused Iran of trying to “gain positional advantage in our neighborhood in a way that would counter U.S. interests” – without explaining how the sale of gasoline will achieve that. Last week he also claimed that he’d seen in Venezuela “an uptick in Iranian state-sponsored activity and liaison … that has included Quds Force” — an elite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. These seem more intended to lay the groundwork for military policies under consideration than statements of fact.

• U.S. officials also are resorting to tough talk regarding the two Americans captured by the Venezuelans during the failed 3 May military incursion. Secretary Pompeo said the United States will “use every tool” needed to bring them home. And, of course, you and the Secretary have on a number of occasions explicitly stated that military options are among those on the table vis-a-vis Venezuela.

National Assembly President Juan Guaidó seems to be trying to egg on the United States into getting involved militarily. He has called for military intervention a number of times in the past, and last week urged the “international community” to stop the Iranian tankers from reaching Venezuela.

• To stir up U.S. concerns about Iran, Guaidó and his advisors have claimed – without evidence – that Tehran is providing materials for a range of covert operations, including a listening post in northern Venezuela to intercept aerial and maritime communications. Guaidó’s senior security aide, Iván Simonovis, said, “For Iran, an enemy of the United States, this means they are almost touching America’s tail.”

We are unable to assess with high confidence exactly how Iran would react to a U.S. effort to stop the tankers before they reach Venezuela. But – if Tehran’s reaction to the U.S. rhetoric so far is any indicator – it seems likely to resist strongly. Iran is laying the groundwork for international condemnation of any such U.S. action. And there probably are many military and civilian officials in Iran now orchestrating plans for tit-for-tat kind of retaliation in the Persian Gulf.

• Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, warned the United States against interfering, stating that U.S. action would be an “illegal, dangerous and provocative move as a kind of marine piracy and a major peril to international peace and security.” Iranian officials have said the country “reserves the right to take all appropriate and necessary measures, including decisive action.” They delivered the same message to the United States through our Swiss representation in Tehran.

About 13 months ago, during a moment in which your Administration appeared to be edging toward confrontation with Russia over a Venezuelan matter, we urged you to avoid the slippery slope toward armed conflict. We were gratified that the hardliners in Washington pushing for confrontation were eventually reined in. We are now at a similar juncture.

• As intelligence officers and national security experts, we have given many years to protecting our nation from a host of threats, including terrorism, narcotics trafficking, Communism, Iran, Russia, and adventurism in Latin America. We also believe, however, that picking fights, interdicting civilian commercial trade, and threatening other countries’ sovereign decision to pursue activities that do not threaten our national security – is rarely the wise way to go.

• As we did last year, we repeat that we are not defending Maduro and his record, while at the same time pointing out that many of his troubles continue to be exacerbated by U.S. sanctions and other actions. And, as we also said last year, we believe that due process and practical, realistic policies better protect our national interests than confrontational rhetoric.

Venezuelans do not want war. They want better lives, and they want the political and economic change that will help them achieve that. The vast majority of Venezuelans would prefer to trade with the United States, not Iran or others from far-off regions. But they don’t want change with a gun pointed to their heads. They don’t want to be your administration’s battleground for the Monroe Doctrine. They know that their political system has long been broken – since before Hugo Chávez’s first election in 1998 – but they know that rebuilding it has to be an evolutionary process with non-coercive international support.

Large segments of political parties opposed to Maduro, and even many members of the Chavista movement, are eager for ongoing domestic negotiations to gain traction so they can start this process. Even more Venezuelans want all sides, including Maduro and Guaidó, to restart negotiations facilitated by the Government of Norway. That’s not going to happen until the United States stops the saber-rattling about Venezuela, Iran, Russia and Cuba, and lets Venezuelans themselves find their way forward. Huffing and puffing hasn’t blown Maduro’s house down, and – despite the immense economic and pandemic challenges it faces – do not seem likely to in the near future.

FOR THE STEERING GROUP, VETERAN INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS FOR SANITY

Fulton Armstrong, former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America & former National Security Council Director for Inter-American Affairs (ret.)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.) 

Graham E. Fuller,Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Robert M. Furukawa, Captain, Civil Engineer Corps, USNR (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq; former Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Sen. Foreign Relations Committee)

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Larry Wilkerson, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State; Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

 

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29 comments for “VIPS MEMO: To the President—Avoid Hostilities Over Iranian Fuel Shipment to Venezuela

  1. Robert H Stiver
    May 26, 2020 at 15:07

    I appreciate all these scintillating comments!  In the main, VIPS:  for shame.  You missed your chance to shine in your own right
    via principled analysis and riposte against the (mostly Zionist) neocons (lusting to lynch Iran) and other assorted warmongers
    as they arrogantly pursue “full-spectrum global dominance.”  As for me, it is always thus:  Palestine Is Still THE Issue!  Solve Palestine, and justice, diplomacy, comity and peace would have a chance to root and flourish in due course and for the betterment of humankind.

    Viva Venezuela!

    As I write this on May 26th, from Hawaii, I have no news that all hell has broken loose in Venezuela environs (or on the high seas, as the empty vessels sail away)….  That astonishes, but pleases, me.

  2. May 25, 2020 at 23:14

    How to respond to some of these comments?

    Several of the comments reflect unfortunate confusion as to the main purpose of a time-sensitive Memo to the President like this one on Venezuela. Five of the 14 signers worked in senior intelligence community supervisory positions that included preparing, when needed, a timely Alert Memorandum (or equivalent art form) to ensure that the White House and other policymakers had the best intelligence analysis before making decisions. In the current case of Venezuela and Iran, decisions that could bring lethal retaliation at a place of Iran’s own choosing, and perhaps further escalation. Do not the first two or three paragraphs of the VIPS Memorandum make its purpose clear?

    As for CIA analysts, because of secrecy of the “other side of the house” — namely those specializing in “regime change” — the analysts are seldom clued in on covert actions. In my personal (27-year) experience, only Director William Colby gave analysts an occasional chop on the merits of this or that covert operation before it was launched. The operations people did not like that; they did not like it, not one bit.

    For most Americans, including journalists, the CIA is just one big happy family. NOT. There is a congenital, structural fault. At birth in 1947, operations people were thrown in with analysts, resulting in all kind of subsequent mischief — and sometimes debacle. Unawareness that this is the case makes it difficult for outsiders to understand how it can be that the conclusions we substantive analysts voiced (and continue to voice) often seem at odds with questionable — sometimes cowboy-style — covert actions that often get revealed in the media.

    An Alert Memorandum does not pretend to be a National Intelligence Estimate or other interagency appraisal of the situation in, and prospects for, a given country or issue. The alert genre eschews that kind of approach, giving just enough background on the evolving situation that gives rise to the need to alert — so that the president, and his national security advisers, can read beyond paragraph three for more context if they wish. In the past, presidents have been made aware of our memoranda and, on more than one occasion, they appear to have reacted to our suggestions. ( There are a couple of examples, for example, in: raymcgovern (dot) com/2020/05/13/text-of-rays-subpoena-response-to-aaron-rich-and-dnc-affiliated-lawyers/ .)

    It does not square with our own “reality” to suggest that our memo “probably automatically ends up in the White House trash bin,” as commentator Mark Stanley suggests.

    Nor can I understand commentator A. Stavropoulos’s remark that “VIPS echo U.S. regime change talking points about Venezuela, and the passionate rhetoric” accompanying that comment. Perhaps A. Stavropoulos did not take the time to read the whole memo.

    Of interest: We have learned that the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry immediately translated our Memo, probably to assist key government officials who find Spanish better suited to their duties. And the VIPS original has garnered media attention beyond what one would expect from lazy journalists on a Friday before a major holiday weekend.

    Oh, and some of the commentators would be interested in knowing that the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry seems far less sensitive to criticism of President Maduro than some of those offering comments in this space. Our Memo notes in passing that Maduro’s “economic performance has alienated many and compounded Venezuela’s problems”. Those words remained in the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry translation. VIPS added, of course, as we have in the past, that “many of his problems continue to be exacerbated by U.S. sanctions and other actions. And, as we added last year, we believe that due process and practical, realistic policies better protect our national interests than confrontational rhetoric.” ( See: consortiumnews (dot) com/2019/04/04/vips-urge-trump-to-avoid-war-in-venezuela/ )

    “Mealy-mouthed”? As we hope Consortium News readers know by now, that’s not VIPS style. Not as acerbic as some readers would like? That apparently is the case this time. Some think a harsher criticism of U.S. policy should have been included. Others? Well, as one VIPS member noted: “Supporting sovereign Venezuelan rights doesn’t make us Maduro apologists … and putting our names to a respectfully worded Memorandum for the President makes it far more likely to receive attention in the policymaking community.  Isn’t that the goal? In my book Trump is a bona fide %$#-$$#@, but for the purposes of this memo, that’s really beside the point.”

    Ray McGovern

  3. Igor Bundy
    May 25, 2020 at 11:25

    A better memo is pack up empire and go home. You are NOT welcome…

  4. May 25, 2020 at 08:18

    From the article: “As we did last year, we repeat that we are not defending Maduro and his record, while at the same time pointing out that many of his troubles continue to be exacerbated by U.S. sanctions..”

    That our policies exacerbate the troubles Venezuela is having is an understatement. Most of the commenters make that point far better than me. We appear to have a pathological obsession to interfere in the lives of others totally absent of any empathy for our victims, which happen to be in the main ordinary human beings.

  5. f f skitty
    May 24, 2020 at 23:46

    as well as sending elliot abrams there as a ‘special representative’.
    gee, i wonder if he had any part in this attempted coup.

  6. dean 1000
    May 24, 2020 at 22:21

    Where have all the free traders gone. Long time passes.

    Is there not even one free trader at the AEI or the Economist to advocate Free Trade and Economic Freedom for Iran and Venezuela?

    Where have all the free traders gone? Gone to Gondwanaland every one.

  7. Marcella
    May 24, 2020 at 17:11

    In Washington’s scheming against Venezuela’s President Madura, an operation like
    that which hunted down and arrested Panama’s Manuel Noriega is allegedly not ruled out.

  8. Herlene Tyson
    May 24, 2020 at 11:36

    This is so disgusting. This great bully goes around the world spreading hardship and hunger and death for it’s own self-serving agendas.
    The rest of the world cannot be accomplices to all this suffering because ‘my enemy must be your enemy too’.
    When will the world get the balls to stand up against this great bully and say enough is enough?
    Tell me a country where sanctions have worked to the benefit of the people, or the country that has prospered after America has meddled in its affairs.
    Imagine if governments on the outside decided that the Orange Scowler was too corrupt and unstable to lead America, and decided they want him out. Then they pick some obscure politician to install as POTUS. Could you imagine?! The entire US would come together to defend their right to determine who they want as leader, even those who detest Trump.
    Let the Venezuelan people decide who they want to lead them. Let THEM decide to keep or oust their leaders just as America will fight for their right to do the same.
    This nonsense HAS to stop.

  9. Mark Stanley
    May 24, 2020 at 10:48

    I agree with the points all of the commentators below are making. Truth is truth, and yet I think the VIP’s are endeavoring to communicate in diplomatic speak. In other words, perhaps they are trying to appease the dragon by speaking in his language. Diplomacy is a dance. I would like to hear from the VIP’s concerning this.
    Of course reality suggests that the letter probably automatically ends up in the white house trash bin. It’s more for us than them.
    From that perspective I also prefer the hard, cold truth.

  10. JOHN CHUCKMAN
    May 24, 2020 at 09:12

    This just from Sputnik:

    The first of five Iranian fuel tankers, the ‘Fortune’, entered the Venezuelan exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on late Saturday, according to data from Refiniv Eikon.

    Later, Iranian embassy in the country announced that the tanker has successfully reached the coast of the country.

  11. May 24, 2020 at 07:27

    This is an attempt to lay out a reasoned set of arguments.

    But the situation America has created, from beginning to end, is without reason.

    Venezuela has done absolutely nothing wrong, yet it has been dragged to the ground and heavily kicked and abused by the representatives of a distant self-declared authority. A distant Mafia Don having his thugs work over uncooperative peasants in territory he is trying to expand into.

    America’s behavior towards Venezuela has been savage.

    The arguments have a revoltingly American tone to them.

    They do not reflect the thinking of people concerned with principles of justice, democracy, and the rule of law.

    Of course, they are made by Americans who spent their careers in the service of imperial agencies which function to manage and expand America’s global dominance.

    In a word, the arguments are almost irrelevant.

    Here’s just a portion of recent American activity against Venezuela and its twice-elected government…

    Shutting down the country’s electrical grid, several times, spoiling all the food in millions of poor people’s fridges, as well as endangering those dependent on life-saving machines.

    Imposing severe sanctions against the health and welfare of millions. Sanctions always disproportionately hurt the poor and vulnerable, and it is important to stress that the way the US uses them, they are simply illegal. They are American laws being applied to people who are not Americans and without the authority of any international organization such as the UN.

    Imposing a naval blockade against the same poor people, something which is considered an act of war.

    Stealing some of Venezuela’s national assets and turning them over to an unelected man who pretends he is president.

    Interfering in the country’s trade and commerce abroad in every way it can think of.

    Sending a flotilla of gunboats, destroyers, into the area to intimidate.

    Sending a group of private American mercenaries to kidnap or kill the President.

    Putting a large bounty on the head of an elected government.

    An earlier attempt to kill the President used a drone with explosives.

    If that list doesn’t represent authentic terror, then I don’t know what would.

  12. Groucho
    May 24, 2020 at 03:06

    This is a very disappointing memo from VIPS. Maduro is the elected president of Venezuela and US efforts to oust him are a violation of international law. It is also ridiculous to blame economic conditions in Venezuela on government corruption and incompetence while it suffers under crippling sanctions. Come on VIPS, call a spade a spade! Iran and Venezuela have a right to trade as they see fit and intercepting the Iranian ships would constitute state terrorism.

  13. Lois Gagnon
    May 23, 2020 at 19:23

    I’m very disappointed to see VIPS placing any blame at all on Maduro for conditions in Venezuela. He has been trying valiantly to continue the Bolivarian Revolution under increasing lawlessness toward his country since he was legitimately elected. All the blame lies with the US and it’s cowardly allies for the suffering there.

    The US is the last country to be pointing fingers at other leaders for falling short when it comes to caring for its own people.

    • elmerfudzie
      May 24, 2020 at 15:15

      Reply to Lois Gagnon from elmerfudzie. Recall that Exxon Mobile is in direct confrontation with the Maduro government and it’s policies. What they really need to do is hire someone with the skills of former ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford. Forget about conjuring some hired hands from the 007 ilk. Yes, there’s still time to cut a last minute and peaceful deal..

      China now has the ways and means to exploit to it’s advantage an ongoing friction between the two states (USA and Venezuela) The CCP has carefully and shrewdly groomed itself into fully investing into the Maduro government by purchasing the Panama canal’s largest port, at Margarita Island. This is a crucial maritime route, situated on the canal’s Atlantic side and a choke point offering unrestricted access for Chinese oil tankers. China now has ready access to one of the most important goods distribution centers in the world. Xi and his corporate partner, Landbridge headed by ceo Ye Chengis are sneaking up from behind us but the Old Eagle sees them coming.

      More is at stake here than a gasoline shipment to Venezuela. I support the notion of keeping the Russians and the Chinese out of out side of the hemisphere, this includes their allies (Iran). China’s businesses may come to invest, yes but not dominate geopolitics in South America.Somehow, the South Americans must be made to understand what’s really at stake here, Do you really want to eventually be under the thumb of the yellow hand? a whole new devil to contend with?

      ASIDE: This is why I insist we open all the doors to Cuba. Let them do the intermediary negotiation between Washington and our South American brothers and sisters. This means, no more packing at old scabs…

      China’s thirst for oil from the Essequibo River area and basin, provides both high grade sweet oil and a distribution network. Again, with ready access to the Atlantic Ocean. Maduro’s nearest neighbor and competitor, the Guyanese government are furious about the Chinese-Maduro conspiracy to overtake oil deposits clearly within the Guyanese back yard.

      Our POTUS is jumping up and down with a congress seemingly all but ready to back another mini war. Meanwhile the CCP have the LNG and oil tanker route all mapped out, not to mention the Atlantic side Island Panama port, guaranteeing newly widened thoroughfare for cargo shipments over to the Pacific side.

      Buzz off our side of town Xi, before we sink something. Perhaps a secret deal in the offing? you keep out of Venezuela and our Navy will find somewhere else to drill, other than the South China Sea?

  14. Skip Edwards
    May 23, 2020 at 19:08

    “But blocking the country’s ability to sell oil, to access accounts and reserves overseas, and to engage in normal trade have had a devastating impact on the Venezuelan people — the more so as the corona virus takes its toll there.” What gives the US government the right to infringe in this criminal behavior toward another sovereign nation? The Monroe Doctrine has long outlived it’s useful or logical life if that is what we are relying on as our excuse to bully others. We are not the world’s masters, nor morally can we be. We must break free of the plutocratic owners of our government. If our elected officials don’t see it possible then perhaps we should show them the courage.

  15. elmerfudzie
    May 23, 2020 at 18:51

    On May 17 a Presstv article appeared warning the USA that any military aggression against the six? tankers owned by the National Iranian Oil Tanker Company or NITC will be met with an equivalent response. On May 23rd, President Rouhani renewed the promise to retaliate. Almost three years ago to the day, I commented on an Iranian scientist who created a new Electronic Warfare devise, Khibiny capable of jamming missile, battleground communication, ground-to-satellite communication, drones and cruise guidance systems. This devise was successfully deployed, by Russia, against two Israeli jets during a confrontation in Syrian air space as well as against the USS Donald Cook during patrols in the Black Sea. It was so effective it temporarily knocked out the entire early warning system for Alaska’s NORAD. Let’s not embarrass ourselves again with senseless and needless confrontations…

    An article appeared on July 14, 2012 written by Georgi Stankov and Gwen, at that time associated with Stankov Law, five minutes after it was published at the Keshe Foundation website, Google blocked it from the internet. Even more embarrassingly, Obama issued an Executive Order on April 23, 2012 banning any publication within the USA, that discusses Khibiny’s use of Magrev Technology for electronic jamming . The EO (number 313?) was ripped from the whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/executive-orders web page, as well.

  16. Bart Hansen
    May 23, 2020 at 18:42

    “Our purpose is not to defend Maduro, whose economic performance has alienated many and compounded Venezuela’s problems.”

    You live with the leader you have, not the one you would like. We have done so, and can hope Venezuela survives as well.

  17. A. Stavropoulos
    May 23, 2020 at 18:31

    VERY disappointing to see VIPS echo U.S. regime change talking points about Venezuela. It’s sanctions and the U.S. theft of Venezuelan property, not “government mismanagement” that is responsible for Venezuela’s economic situation, full stop. And no mention of 40,000 plus Venezuelans killed by sanctions. Moreover, a blockade or interdiction of Venezuela IS an act of war under international law. To say “any U.S. attempt to interdict access of the Iranian ships to Venezuela will be widely seen as an act of war,” is mealy-mouthing nonsense. Maduro is the elected leader of Venezuela and the U.S. has zero right to take any action against that country, much less the theft of Venezuelan property and assets, as has taken place. VIPS should revise this statement to reflect the true situation, and not repeat the regime change lies that the U.S. government makes regarding the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

    • Sam F
      May 24, 2020 at 08:28

      My guess is that the VIPS avoid disputing the US oligarchy anti-socialist points to retain credibility in such a letter.

  18. Sam F
    May 23, 2020 at 14:43

    Very well written and timely advice to the administration, for which thanks to the VIPS.
    US aggression in the Caribbean would also rationalize China declaring a Monroe Doctrine in the South China Sea.
    As noted, it would further disgrace the US among traditional allies, and would lose Trump many votes in November.
    Those making such aggressive suggestions should be simply fired: they could never produce a sensible policy idea.
    Where the trade threatened is petroleum, the US plays a dangerous game, for its own tankers are just as easy targets.

  19. Jeff Harrison
    May 23, 2020 at 12:48

    What the US is doing is completely illegitimate and illegal. The US does not have the authority to determine who gets to lead another state. It represents yet another failure of the UN to provide leadership to the world as it cravenly ignores blatant violations of international law. Even worse, under the heading of what goes around comes around, wait until other countries start doing to us what we have been doing to others….

  20. Hank
    May 23, 2020 at 12:42

    ” . . . Maduro’s leadership, the officer corps has tended to rally behind him – be it out of sense of obligation, fear of him, or fear of what the radical opposition will do to them if change occurs.”

    “Obligation, fear”? What about a poll to see how many back Maduro because they resoundingly support him against foreign aggression? If these soldiers and officers think that supporting an opposition that would probably imprison/execute many of them is wise, they must also think that a regime change instigated by the USA would benefit the people. Some people never learn.

    With all the accusations and threats flying around, it might help matters if the USA actually took a good long look at itself in the mirror some day soon!

  21. Devil's Advocate
    May 23, 2020 at 12:04

    It is quite obvious that appealing to people in power is really just an exercise in futility. The fact that you would have to make such an appeal over matters such as this should be proof in itself that what rational people think has no importance to them.

    Yes, rational people know that attacking the shipments to Venezuela will likely trigger the powder keg they’ve already created in the Middle East. But, isn’t that exactly what Washington wants?

  22. May 23, 2020 at 11:51

    What a mealy-mouthed lot of nonsense. What gives these American “intelligence professionals” the right to pronounce on the internal politics of another country?

    The “Monroe Doctrine” is an American exceptionalist invention. It does not exist outside the minds of American political fantasists.

    We are told that the Venezuelan officer corps remain loyal to their elected President through fear or obligation. Have the VIPs not heard of patriotism, or love of one’s own country?

    Their mindset is no different from that of Trump or Biden. To be useful, they need to rethink their limited parameters.

  23. AnneR
    May 23, 2020 at 11:21

    Perhaps VIPS would like to explain how they know that “the vast majority” of Venezuelans (i.e. those of poor, indigenous and African background – NOT the compradores who usually are of mainly European background and considerably better off) would “rather trade with the USA than Iran” etc? Evidence???

    Would they like to explain how Maduro managed – legitimately, legally – to win the last election if he is so loathed?

    Would they like to explain the major reasons for Venezuelan’s impoverishment? US economic sanctions – that have gone on for years.

    Would they like to explain why the USA is the – apparently according to their verbiage – the Rightful decider in How Venezuela (Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua – or any other Southern-Central American country) is governed; What its political stance *should* be? The Monore Doctrine???? When Did the populations (NOT simply the compradores) of South and Central America VOTE to have THAT doctrine rule them???? The USA’s “interests” (rather, those of the corporate-capitalist-imperialist ruling elites) ARE Not those of the ordinary, poor, indigenous Central and South American peoples.

    The Hubris. The Arrogance. I expected better from VIPS. But they clearly have been fully indoctrinated into believing in the right of the USA to determine, to decide what is good for any particular country, who should govern them, who should control their natural resources….

    And the USA has been against the self-decided (by the population at large) direction (Bolivarian – i.e. really Left, independent) of Venezuela since Chavez came to power.

    If VIPS folks really cared about the bulk of the Venezuelan population they would recognize – and applaud – the fact that, despite the efforts of the USA to strangle their government via Siege Warfare (economic sanctions) that under Chavez and continued under Maduro the poor (including the elderly) have become increasingly literate, have some say in their governance via community votes, have had access to free at point of service medical care….

    Can that be said of the poor (indigenous and African American particularly) of this country? Not hardly. People who dwell in glass houses should refrain from throwing stones at others. Put right your own society before presuming to right what you perceive as wrong in others.

    • Skip Scott
      May 24, 2020 at 08:24

      Excellent comment! I am wondering if some of the statements in this letter to the president are meant to appease his Royal Orangeness and his rabid underlings, rather than speak the truth. The truth is that socialism in any form will never be acceptable to the Oligarchy, and that their definition of “National Security” is the continued expansion of their wealth at the expense of native populations. There is no security in an attitude of continuous belligerence, arrogance, and economic warfare (with the threat of military action) against any nation that refuses to be absorbed into the blob of Empire. In fact it is the very opposite of “National Security”. It is the road to Armageddon.

  24. Skip Scott
    May 23, 2020 at 08:56

    Considering our “intelligence” agencies were (and are) largely behind our “adventurism in Latin America”, I would say that the members of VIPS are a very small minority of the alumni of those agencies. The Monroe doctrine has transformed into “global hegemony” in the many decades that have passed since it was written, and our “intelligence” agencies are mere servants of Empire. For “Rule of Law” to gain any traction in the USA, Empire will have to go. The evil ones only bow to raw power. They are the real threat to our “National Security.” Until we learn to wage peace in a multi-polar world, the US War Machine will be the biggest threat to all life on the planet.

  25. May 23, 2020 at 04:14

    1. “We understand that many of the countries that joined the United States in recognizing Guaidó now regret doing so.”

    Tough. Thats the problem with being a US colony

    2. Not even you guys can manage to point out the egregious hypocrisy of complaining about an alleged unproven Russian interference in your govt while openly interfereing in the affairs of another state.

  26. Drew Hunkins
    May 23, 2020 at 00:27

    “hardliners in both Washington and Iran would relish a chance to give a bloody nose to the other side, ”

    Misleading statement. Virtually all Iranian officials want no part of any sort of hostilities toward the Washington-Zio empire. They desire cooperative business relations with the rest of the globe, including the U.S.

    “Maduro, whose economic performance has alienated many and compounded Venezuela’s problems. ”

    Misleading statement. The Maduro administration’s econ policies wouldn’t be all that bad and would be relatively decent if not for the draconian sanctions the Washington imperialists have illegally placed on Venezuela due to its sovereign independence. Once again, all Maduro wants to do is enter into cooperative business relations with the rest of the world, including the U.S.

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