Secretary of State Pompeo's comments that diplomats had 'become a constraint on US policy” sparked concerns the US is mulling military action in Venezuela
UNITED NATIONS – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that the U.S. intends to withdraw all of its diplomats from Venezuela due to the “deteriorating situation” in the country.
But in the same Tweet announcing the withdrawal, Pompeo turned heads by saying their presence “has become a constraint on U.S. policy,” sparking concerns the U.S. could be planning its own military action in Venezuela that would put the diplomats at risk.
“It’s sort of like parsing what the Delphic oracle is saying here – they’re leaving their messages deliberately deniable and vague.”
Adam Isacson directs the defense oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America.
“But if their goal is to maybe instigate a rebellion in the Venezuelan military or further destabilize things through fears of a coup or fears of invasion, this would be the way that you would do it.”
The U.S. has been making those sorts of threats of late. In January, National Security Advisor John Bolton was photographed with a note pad bearing the words, “5,000 troops to Colombia,” and President Trump has called the prospect of military action “an option.”
If the U.S. is merely concerned about diplomatic safety, Isacson said Pompeo could easily have said that, but he didn’t.
Emma Ashford, a foreign policy research fellow at the Cato Institute, agrees.
“There’s been a lot of these very escalatory, very saber rattling statements coming out of the administration, and I do remain concerned that their sort of approach to the Venezuela problem seems to be to ratchet up tensions and suggest that they might go further.”
While Ashford thinks any military threats are just bluster, she says that bluster at the very least reflects a naïve assumption that foreign pressure could imminently lead to regime change.
“We have seen absolutely no evidence that that is the case, and so when I look at what the administration is doing, I see a strategy that just seems to be very detached from reality – a lot of very strong statements but it’s not clear it is they’re actually planning to do about it.”