MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
SUBJECT: Avoiding Hostilities Over Iranian Fuel Shipment to Venezuela
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.
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