For the night of 9 September 2013
Japan-China: Two Chinese navy ships sailed through the international waters between Okinawa and Miyako in the Ryukyus. Yesterday two bombers flew between the two islands.
Syria: The fighting has continued with no let up. The government has made small gains in multiple areas. However an al-Qaida-affiliated group of the al Nusra Front drove government forces from the village of Maaloula. This is one of the three villages in the world that still speak a variation of Western Aramaic, which is the language thought to be closest to the language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.
As occurs whenever a Christian village is captured, the fighters looted and burned the churches as well as the Christian homes. Government forces were reported to be preparing to retake the village on 9 September.
Syrian opposition fighters released a Belgian and an Italian whom they had held hostage since April. The two arrived in Italy on 9 September. The terms of their release have not been disclosed.
The Belgian, Pierre Piccinin, told Belgian press that he overheard three rebels, one of whom identified himself as a Free Syrian Army general, talking about the gas attack on 21 August. He said the rebels said the Syrian government did not execute the attack or any attack. The rebels said it was the rebels who executed the attack in order to trigger Western intervention.
Comment: The Belgian was still in captivity when he overheard the conversation. This adds weight to the contention the case against Asad is fraudulent because Piccinin says he has been a strong supporter of the rebel movement. He said since he has been covering the Syrian uprising, the "revolution": has turned into something very dangerous.
Iraq-Syria: For the record. The Iraq government announced that it joined Iran in opposing a US attack against Syria.
Comment: Iraq just showed its true allegiance when it counts most -- not to the US, but to Iran.
Russia-Syria: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov picked on an off-hand sarcastic suggestion by the US Secretary of State today. Russia proposed that Syria place its chemical weapons under international/UN control. It urged Syria to concentrate the chemical weapons and prepare to dismantle them.
Syrian Foreign Minister Mu'allim replied that Syria welcomed the Russian proposal and invited UN inspectors to return to Syria to begin the process..
Comment: Western commentators opined that the Russians and Syrians were bluffing. However, Lavrov was the first to suggest that the US Secretary of State might not be serious. Nevertheless, he indicated Russia would immediately begin to work with Damascus on the proposition if it makes it possible to avoid strikes against Syrian.
In this proposal, the Asad government would stay in power, as multiple commentators have noted, and the UN or some other international entity would become the referee. A US attack could not be justified as long as good faith negotiations made progress.
The opposition would consider itself betrayed and might attempt to demonstrate that sentiment. It had been preparing an offensive surge to coincide with the US cruise missile attacks.
Syria also requested an assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the effects of a Tomahawk missile strike on Syrians nuclear reactor. The US objected to the request as beyond the scope of the Agency's charter
Egypt: Update. The 50-member constitutional drafting committee convened on 9 September. The stock market rose.
The Egyptian Army began another militant suppression operation in north Sinai. They killed 9 militants, but thus far are only inflicting light damage on the militants.
End of NightWatch for 9 September.
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