22:03 GMT17 June 2021
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    Earlier, unnamed officials told US media that President Trump has expressed a lack of interest in conducting a military operation in Venezuela, with National Security Advisor John Bolton sparring with Pentagon generals over a supposed lack of military options for intervention in the Latin American country.

    John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan met in the Pentagon on Friday morning to discuss military options in Venezuela.

    Speaking to reporters outside the Pentagon after the meeting, Shanahan, who cancelled a planned trip to Europe earlier this week to focus on Venezuela, did not detail any of the possible military options being considered, and did not say whether the Trump administration had approved military action in the Latin American country. 

    "We have a comprehensive set of options tailored to certain conditions, and I'm just going to leave it at that," the Pentagon chief said.

    Shanahan reiterated the White House's oft-repeated statement about all options remaining "on the table," and said there was a "depth" to US military planning, with Friday morning's session being "really a true review" to make sure the administration was "in alignment" on the situation.

    Shanahan also dismissed a reporter's concerns of a possible repeat of the kind of intelligence failures which preceded the 2003 Iraq War, saying he didn't feel "like we have an intelligence gap" on Venezuela. "We have multiple sources that we constantly sample, and then we have all sorts of other ways of doing collection…I feel very confident in the quality and the accuracy of the information that we're getting," the secretary of defence said.

    Bolton was a key advocate of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq while serving as a senior adviser to President George W. Bush. Unlike many of his colleagues who have since switched their positions, he has continued to support the invasion in interviews as recently as 2018. President Trump was a strong critic of the Iraq War during the 2016 election, calling it "a big fat mistake" that cost trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.

    Earlier this week, unnamed officials told the Washington Post that Trump showed more interest in Florida politics and his golf courses than a possible US military operation in Venezuela, and that John Bolton had been given purview over Venezuela policy. According to officials, Bolton staffers got into a heated debate with Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Paul. J. Selva last week after Selva advised against escalating the situation in the Latin American country and failed to provide them with the requested military options.

    US Southern Command chief Admiral Charles Faller, who said earlier this year that the military should be "ready to go" to support the Venezuelan opposition's bid to overthrow the government, sat in on Friday morning's meeting and briefed the senior officials on military options.

    Earlier this week, Faller pushed back against Secretary of State Pompeo's statement that the US was considering military options to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, telling members of Congress that "it has to be, should be, a democratic transition," and indicating that the Pentagon was planning for any contingency in the event that opposition leader Juan Guaido succeeds in ousting Maduro.

    The crisis in Venezuela escalated on Tuesday, after Guaido announced the start of the "final phase" of the opposition's campaign to topple the government and called on the military to support him. The call to action led to clashes in Caracas between opposition protesters and security forces, leaving at least 70 people injured and four dead and prompting President Maduro to appear on TV to announce that prosecutors have been appointed to investigate an alleged coup attempt.


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