|Julian Assange (Above)|
It's a small world after all...
In many ways, this is a classic tempest in a teapot, much ado about nothing. Assange, after all, through his web-based organization Wikileaks merely facilitated the publication of various pieces of government classified content - he was not personally responsible for appropriating any of the things he published. In reality, he is not any more culpable than the New York Times was when they published the so-called 'Pentagon Papers' in 1971. Julian Assange should be a minor, if interesting, footnote in history.
But there are dark manipulations just under the surface, and a foul aura of authoritarian suppression and inter-governmental conspiracy to silence him, and that makes the whole thing so much more important than just another argument over extradition. Hanging above the whole affair is the real possibility, however remote, that the United States might imprison him for life, or even kill him, for essentially embarrassing them. The Swedish case against him has a bad smell. Governments have long used sex charges to not only silence, but to demonize and discredit political opponents, and the history of Sweden's prosecution of Assange makes the entire case suspect. The arrest warrant was issued, then canceled by the Prosecutor, only to be re-issued a week later by the Director of Prosecutions. It's hard not to suspect that there has been significant diplomatic pressure brought to bear by the United States government.
How does it all play out? Despite the unhinged threats of the British government to violate Ecuadorean sovereignty and forcibly extradite Assange, it is unlikely that this will end in any such dramatic fashion. Assuming the overarching goal is to stay out of American custody, the best outcome is a negotiated agreement with Sweden to return and face prosecution without the threat of extradition to the US. There would still be a small risk of rendition, but the nature of the charges and Assange's high profile make that eventuality unlikely.
In the meantime it's a chess game, with Julian Assange sitting in the small Ecuadorean embassy in London, as moves and countermoves are made in legal and diplomatic circles. While there is no doubt that the UK will do Washington's bidding, it remains to be seen how willing Sweden is to play the role of American lap dog over the longer term.