Julian Assange’s Health Seriously Deteriorating; 75% of Congress Wants to Kill More Syrians to Pressure Russia, Iran & Hezbollah; US Accuses Russia of Conducting Low-Level Nuke Tests

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 05, 2016: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Julian Assange’s health has rapidly deteriorated since his imprisonment at the infamous Belmarsh in the UK. Reports indicate that he has lost a significant amount of weight in recent weeks and was unable to converse with his attorney before a scheduled hearing over a week ago. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, visited Assange recently, along with two medical specialists on torture. His conclusion is that Assange exhibits many of the hallmark signs of having suffered from prolonged psychological torture and that he should be released immediately. Below is an interview with Melzer on Democracy Now!:

https://www.democracynow.org/2019/5/31/seg_1_julian_assange_please_update?utm_source=Democracy+Now%21&utm_campaign=3262f0448b-Daily_Digest_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fa2346a853-3262f0448b-191485825

In other news, almost 400 members of Congress, from both chambers and both parties, have signed a letter to President Trump demanding that the U.S. escalate the war in Syria, which is winding down, in order to pressure perceived U.S. adversaries Russia and Iran. Ben Norton at the Grayzone Project reports the following:

Top Democratic Party leaders have joined hawkish Republicans in a bipartisan demand that the far-right president “address threats in Syria” and “demonstrate American leadership in resolving the prolonged conflict.”

They hope to do this through more US intervention, implementing a three-pronged “Syria strategy”: one, “augment our support” for Israel and maintain its “qualitative military edge”; two, “increase pressure on Iran and Russia”; and, three, “increase pressure on Hezbollah.”

While the letter stops short of openly requesting more American troops inside Syria, it clearly states that the US should take more aggressive actions. It also expressly calls on the Trump White House to punish Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah with crippling sanctions.

Among the signatories are 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker. (The full list follows at the bottom of this [original] article.)

The letter was notably not signed by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, both 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who are running left-wing, anti-war campaigns.

The Congressional call does not even feign concern for the humanitarian situation of Syrians, or make any pretense of supporting the “Syrian people.” Rather, it is entirely framed within a chauvinistic perspective of expanding American power, protecting Israel, and weakening “US adversaries.”

Read the full article here.

On May 29th Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told an audience at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC that the U.S. suspects that Russia is not abiding by its treaty obligations on low-yield nuclear tests. RFE/RL reported:

Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said in a speech on May 29 that Russia could be doing tests that go “beyond what is believed necessary, beyond zero yield.”

The problem, he said, was that Russia “has not been willing to affirm” they are adhering to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

“The United States believes that Russia probably is not adhering to its nuclear testing moratorium in a manner consistent with the ‘zero-yield’ standard,” said Ashley, who is director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department’s main in-house intelligence organization.

“Zero-yield” refers to a nuclear test where there is no explosive chain reaction of the sort caused by an atomic bomb nuclear warhead.

Asked specifically whether U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley said, “They’ve not affirmed the language of zero yield.”

Interestingly, the treaty in question – the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1996 – was never even ratified by the U.S., so it takes some crust for the U.S. to say anything about it. But such hypocrisy and double standards is par for the course these days.

The UK Guardian is reporting that the head of the nuclear organization tasked with overseeing the treaty that is allegedly being violated by Russia said their investigation does not support U.S. claims:

Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), said the agency had already investigated the claim made on Wednesday by the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt Gen Robert Ashley, that Russia had “probably” violated the moratorium on tests of any yield….

….Zerbo said the agency had conducted a test of its global network of sensors on Wednesday to estimate what size of nuclear blast it would be able to detect at Novaya Zemlya.

The test found that its monitoring system would have picked up a blast of 3.1 on the Richter scale, which would be roughly equivalent, in that area, to a nuclear detonation of 100 tons – tiny in comparison to the yield of most nuclear warheads, which are normally measured in thousands of tons. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively….

….“If now we talk about a hundred tons that is detectable in that zone, it means that we’re going pretty low,” Zerbo told the Guardian in a telephone interview from Seoul. “If you go that low, what value added does it bring to a country with nuclear weapons? That’s a question that one should ask. And that could lead to a clear answer immediately.

Russian officials did not waste any time reiterating that any such violation would have been detected by global monitoring systems. Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com quoted a Russian parliamentarian:

There is a global system that would immediately detect a nuclear test, which led Russian MP Vladimir Shamanov to mock the US military for “failing professionalism” as he noted that nuclear tests cannot be carried out secretly.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. dismissed the allegations as a further attack on the global system of arms control that had been built up over decades:

“The U.S. allegations… look like a well-planned and directed attack not only and not so much on Russia as on the arms control regime, and on the entire architecture for strategic stability,” Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador, was quoted as saying by Vesti TV. 

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