As the Syrian uprising enters its second year, it has severely damaged the Assad regime
As the Syrian uprising marks its first anniversary, a tally of the past 12 months is in order, said Ghassan Sharbel, the editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.
"The Syrian crisis is as deep as it is complicated," he said. "On one hand, it is part of the Arab Spring; protests against one party's monopoly of power. On the other hand, it is a battle for Syria's position in the region."
The ever-expanding crisis has brought severe and maybe irreparable damage upon the Syrian regime. Before the spark, Syria was a major regional player that enjoyed sturdy internal stability and could wield power outside its own borders. Today, however, Syria has become a field for a bitter internal conflict. Its seat at the Arab League is vacant, its once awe-inspiring apparatus abased and its ability to regain the precious stability highly unlikely.
"The regime missed out on a valuable opportunity in the first two weeks that followed the Deraa flare. Had it chosen to let go of Article 8 [of the constitution] and immediately form a national unity government headed by an acceptable figure from outside the ruling party all the while bridling the security apparatus's vehemence, the protests would have stopped at demands to reform the regime rather than topple it," he opined.
If it weren't for the Russian lifeline, the Assad regime would have found itself drowning in isolation. But Russia's stems from careful strategic planning; what Moscow wants is to retain its position in the Middle East even if it meant burning bridges with the Arab-western camp. This doesn't necessarily mean that Moscow and Damascus's plans concur for the next phase.
Just as president Bashar Al Assad misinterpreted the massive changes that the Arab Spring brought about in a number of countries, he miscalculated the effects of the Sunni-Shiite tensions in the region.
Authorities succeeded in preventing another Benghazi situation in Syria and they were able to curb massive protests, but the exaggerated harshness of the clampdown lost them the media battle and the support of the public opinion all over the world.
Mr Al Assad did manage to ward off international intervention in Syria by persuading a number of powers that his removal would lead to bloody chaos in the heart of the Arab World and at the gates of Israel.
As for the opposition, it remains determined despite its inability to remove the tyrannical regime and despite the destruction. It proved its ability to lead a long and costly war of attrition against the regime, but it has yet to develop a consolidated vision that would reassure the international community as well as the Syrian interior.
The regime can't take back what it has done so far and the opposition can't possibly turn backwards after all the sacrifices.
No federation before state for Libya
The call earlier this month by some tribal leaders in Benghazi for the establishment of a federal system in Libya was an unwitting call for breaking the country into pieces, wrote Abdelhaq Azzouzi, a Moroccan academic, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.
Clashes erupted last week between Benghazi natives who want to restore a pre-independence system - when a region called Barqa used to be an autonomous territory - and the defenders of Libya's territorial unity.
"Saying that Barqa has suffered from the brutal rule of Qaddafi for so long and that the way to give its people justice is by divorcing it from the central authority is an exercise in irrationality," the writer said.
Talk about a federation in Libya is too early. First, Barqa contains more than 60 per cent of Libya's oil reserves while it is home to only about 25 per cent of the country's population, the writer said, which is an unsustainable imbalance.
Second, you can't have a federation without having a state. Libya is still making baby steps on the road to reconstruction and its central government is still fragile and under pressure.
In the United States and Germany (federal systems) as in Spain (advanced regionalism), a strong central government is the unifying core from which semiautonomous territories get their sustainable strength.
Rich Saudi women can beat unemployment
Saudi women's wealth is worth $210 billion, according to a business report cited last month by the Saudi newspaper Okaz.
Writing in the opinion section of the same newspaper, columnist Abdullah Omar Khayyat wrote an article yesterday entitled "Unemployment and Frozen Wealth" where he argued that wealthy Saudi women must be encouraged to invest at home to curb unemployment in the kingdom.
"Large numbers of young [Saudi] men and women are lost because they can't find a job in the public or private sectors," he wrote. "The bizarre part is that a large segment among them are well educated - graduates from our own universities or universities abroad."
The report also showed that Saudi women in 2011 controlled about $18bn worth of liquidity deposited in Saudi-based banks, 33 per cent of brokerages and 40 per cent of family businesses.
Why, then, is a large share of this wealth just sitting in banks and not being invested to create jobs?
"Instead of looking for foreign investors," the writer proposed, "we must really start encouraging wealthy women to create businesses … to absorb those who are currently unemployed, and even those fresh graduates who will be coming on the market soon."
* Digest compiled by Translation Desk