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Mike Pompeo holds US diplomats in Venezuela to break the military alliance of Nicolas Maduro

S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denied Nicolas Maduro's request to withdraw US diplomats by Saturday afternoon. I suspect that he did this to promote a systemic break between Maduro and the Venezuelan military that holds him in power.

Pompeo knows that the support of Maduro by the Venezuelan military is not ultimately ideological. Rather, it reflects Maduro's mass bribery in the top ranks of the military – the generous patronage he offers. The military general officers have become very rich through this corruption.

But even if they are immoral, they are not irrational. Maduro could chatter about "extreme imperialist impudence" when he demands that the US withdraw its diplomats, but the military is the only means by which he can effect that withdrawal.

Any military attack on the US embassy would lead to a violent exchange with the embassy's naval security garrison. It would also be a permanent invitation to the Marine FAST team, which is likely to be moved near Venezuela. Even if the Venezuelan generals could win a short-term battle for control of the embassy grounds, a loss of American life would not only go hand in hand with significant Venezuelan military casualties (the Embassy grounds are well suited for a defensive action), but would also be a legitimate casus belli become. An attack on the US would accelerate the death of the officers involved or lead to a later US federal detention.

While Pompeo certainly plays a high-risk game here, it would be unfair to say that he uses US diplomats as simple Brinkmans. Finally, on Wednesday, President Trump officially recognized Juan Guaido, head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as interim president of his nation. Guaido has requested that the US maintain its diplomatic presence against Maduro's wishes. To evacuate American diplomats would compromise the credibility and moral leadership of United States foreign policy, but we should note that Trump's critics have often pointed out that he ignores them.

We also have to realize that all of this is taking place in the context of the massive road mobilization against Maduro. Pompeo knows that the generals have been watching the reign against Maduro's rule, and they have given reason to question their continued support for Maduro. The tide, which is likely to be measured by US intelligence ratings as well as road torque, appears to be shifting.

There are risks here. Maduro retains nominal control of the Venezuelan forces and has a soft spot for unpredictable actions. The president could also rely on his "colectivos" ̵

1; armed ideological supporters – to fight the US.

However, I doubt it. Even Maduro can not be so stupid as to use force against the United States. It would invite the end of his regime. It is also important to mention that the US is giving Maduro an easy way out – a safe transition to a prosperous retirement – if he steps down now. In this bid and the concomitant escalation of US pressure, it is obvious that the Trump administration is feeling the moment to get things done in one go. if (f.fbq) return; n = f.fbq = function () {n.callMethod?
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