Chen Guangcheng photos released by U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng left the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday after a deal was negotiated by his American hosts, despite concern over his ultimate fate in the hands of the Chinese government and uncertainty about the circumstances of his release. However, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing seems confident enough that they can ultimately file this episode in their "wins" folder that they have released photos of Chen's stay through the embassy's official Flickr stream

In the carefully choreographed photo above, Chen clasps hands with Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for Asian and Pacific Asian affairs, while U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke beams in the background.

Here, Campbell gives the Chinese dissident a crushing bear hug. Campbell led negotiations for Chen's release with Harold Koh, legal advisor to the Department of State, after being dispatched by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, currently in Beijing for high-level negotiations.

While driving to the hospital where he was to reunite with his family, Chen reportedly called Clinton to thank her for her role in facilitating the release. While one senior administration official reported that Chen told Clinton he wanted to "kiss her," others have said he was saying "see her" in broken English. 

In an interview with the AP, Chen claimed that he left the embassy only after he was told by U.S. officials that Chinese authorities had threatened his wife's life. However, Campbell insists that Chen left willingly.

Whether or not Chen will now be free from house arrest remains unclear. In an interview with Britain's Channel 4 from his hospital room, Chen expressed fear. "Nobody from the [U.S.] Embassy is here. I don't understand why. They promised to be here," he said.

U.S. officials say that Chen will be allowed to study at a university of his choosing as part of the release. Hopefully, the intense media interest generated by the case may help to keep him and his family safe.


Checkmate in Syria

It's become a cliché to say the struggle in Syria is stalemated. After all, dozens of people are still being killed daily, despite Kofi Annan's efforts to broker a ceasefire. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave new meaning to the chess metaphor on Sunday when he met for three hours with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).

Ilyumzhinov is no ordinary pawn in international diplomacy. He is the former president of the southern Russian republic of Kalmykia who enjoyed a long relationship with Libyan autocrat Muammar al-Qaddafi -- the two played a game of chess even while NATO warplanes were bombarding Qaddafi's forces, and spoke by phone as Libyan rebels surrounded Qaddafi's compound in Tripoli. Oh, and let's not forget that Ilyumzhinov is on record saying that he was abducted by aliens.

So how does a repressive dictator and an eccentric chess guru pass the time? According to a press release put out by FIDE, the two men discussed organizing the "first international youth chess tournament," which would bring Arabs from across the region to Damascus to test their skills.  "The Syrian president plays chess very well -- since his studies in London," Ilyumzhinov said.

Assad also used the opportunity to try to woo more high-profile international visitors to Syria. "President Assad said that on the Syrian territory there is one of the most ancient Buddhist temples erected about two thousand years ago," Ilyumzhinov said. "He would like to invite H.H. Dalai Lama to sanctify this temple."

Now we know, at least, that international diplomatic efforts aren't so intensive that Assad can't deal personally with such concerns.