While Guaido and his self-declared “government”(-in-waiting) are downplaying the prospects of a military invasion to topple Maduro, the reality is that such a scenario really isn’t all that far-fetched and could even succeed in the event that only a limited one was commenced in the ultra-strategic state of Zulia.
The Last Chance For Peace
Both supporters and detractors of the Venezuelan government seem to be of the mind that the country’s crisis is rapidly approaching a climax, with the specter of a military invasion looming large on the horizon. Each camp, and especially Guadio’s self-declared “government”(-in-waiting), has downplayed this possibility, but the reality is that such a scenario really isn’t all that far-fetched and could even succeed in the event that only a limited one was commenced in the ultra-strategic state of Zulia. This isn’t to say that an attack is imminent since there’s a chance that next week’s “Lima Group” meeting and the planned multilateral “mediation” summit in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo might yield some positive dividends, especially if Russia and China somehow get involved and turn the latter format into an Astana-like conference, but no one should discount the prospects of a military invasion being launched if neither of those functions results in Maduro quickly “compromising” on his principled position.
From Syria To Ukraine And Now Venezuela
The danger of something of the sort happening is real enough after US National Security Advisor John Bolton was caught on camera with a notepad where he scribbled “5,000 troops to Colombia” in what was probably a “self-leak” to telegraph the US’ intentions and put additional pressure on Venezuela. Furthermore, this coincided with Colombian-based military defectors begging the US to arm them so they can overthrow their government. From the looks of it, the same “Lead From Behind” HybridWar scenario as what happened earlier this decade in Syria and Ukraine appears to be on the brink of repeating itself in Venezuela whereby the US’ most trusted regional allies (Turkey, Poland, and Colombia) are charged with being the vanguard proxy force for assisting a regime change operation in the neighboring country whose government the US wants to overthrow.
Continuing with the comparisons, each of the targeted country’s adjacent regions to the US’ “Lead From Behind” proxy state share certain strategic similarities vis-à-vis facilitating the Hybrid War against it. Northern Syria contains the country’s largest city of Aleppo and is historically a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood sentiment, Western Ukraine is popularly known as the country’s nationalist nest, and the economically significant state of Zulia has traditionally been an opposition stronghold. Seeing as how this analysis is first and foremost about the prospects of a military invasion of Venezuela, the relevance of the third-mentioned region deserves to be elaborated upon in order to better understand its importance in this context and how it compares to the two aforementioned regions in the other previously victimized states.
Zulia: Venezuela’s Achilles’ Heel
Reuters reported last summer that Zulia, Venezuela’s most populous state where nearly 1/5 of the population resides, accounts for approximately 35% of the country’s meat and dairy production as well as around 25% of its oil exports. The state is also separated from the rest of Venezuela by the Andes Mountains, which led to the formation of a distinct and very proud regional identity over the decades. Being the Bolivarian Republic’s historic source of oil, some demagogic voices have previously called for autonomy in order to retain as much of their region’s energy revenue as possible, though this initiative has thus far been unsuccessful. Nevertheless, in times of serious economic and political uncertainty such as the present, it could become an attractive rallying cry of the opposition.
It’s with this strategic backdrop in mind why Zulia might be targeted by US-backed and Colombian-based Venezuelan military defectors if diplomatic means fail to get Maduro to “compromise”. Just like the “Free Syrian Army” did in Northern Syria with US & Turkish assistance and “EuroMaidan’s” supporters accomplished in Western Ukraine with US & Polish backing prior to the coup’s success, so too could anti-government fighters try to take control of Zulia with US & Colombian support in trying to carve that part of the country away from the central government’s authority. The possible success of this scenario could cripple the rest of Venezuela by immediately depriving it of hefty food, energy, and ultimately financial resources that could bring about the state’s rapid collapse soon thereafter.
Catalyzing The Final Collapse
This isn’t just “senseless fearmongering” either because the removal of 35% of Venezuela’s meat and dairy products from the rest of the country’s shelves and the loss of a further 25% of its oil-exporting-dependent state revenue (which would compound with the effects of the US’ recently imposed sanctions that cut the country off from its top oil consumer who previously purchased 41% of its exports) would be catastrophic and likely catalyze the large-scale exodus of pro-government internally displaced people eastwards towards Caracas where they’d inadvertently function as “Weapons of Mass Migration” in the capital. Faced with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the government would face the realistic prospect of either collapse or a military coup, the latter of which might be partially financed by some of the $7 billion of PDVSA assets that Guaido obtained access to earlier this week.
Considering that the US officially recognizes Guaido and his allies as representing the “legitimate” government of Venezuela, Washington might use the occupation of Zulia as the pretext to directly intervene and protect any energy assets that the Hybrid Warriors sign over to its control like Bolton hinted that he’d like to see happen if the rolling regime change operation succeeds. The US could then use Zulia (possibly described as “Free Venezuela” by that time by the Western Mainstream Media) as its base of operations for putting the finishing touches on its envisioned “government-in-waiting” for the country, recognizing that it would only be a “waiting game” after that point as it sees how long it’ll take for the rest of the country to either collapse or be taken over by a pro-US military coup as it descends further into dystopic chaos.
The US would ideally prefer for Maduro to peacefully step down as a result of a “compromise” political solution brought about by the forthcoming diplomatic initiatives set to be launched next week because that would be the easiest way for its companies to reap the most immediate and maximum profit from their country’s geopolitical “prize” if they simply assume ownership over its energy and mineral assets soon thereafter. Should that approach fail, however, then the back-up plan might be for the Bolivarian Republic’s “Achilles’ heel” of Zulia to be invaded by US-backed “moderate rebels” that would enter the state from Colombia following the “Lead From Behind” Hybrid War template trailblazed in Syria and Ukraine. The possible success of this “limited intervention” could serve as the pretext for a direct conventional one by the US itself, as well as catalyze the collapse of the rest of the country in bringing a quick end to this long-running regime change campaign.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Eurasia Future