Saudi economic aid is only the first step

A round-up of commentary in Arabic language newspapers.

In his Friday address to the people, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz announced a $93 billion package grant for young Saudi citizens in an attempt to contain their anger about their deteriorating living conditions in a country, wrote Abdulbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based daily Al Quds al Arabi.

"The amount is undoubtedly huge and would surely make many people happy during these difficult economic times in the country. But the royal orders and decrees didn't respond to the Saudi people's demands of political reforms pertaining to social equity, constitutional monarchy, an independent judicial system and an elected Shura council."

It is true that one of the royal decrees orders the founding of a governmental anti-corruption committee to which everyone would be accountable.

More money should have been spent years ago on improving services within the kingdom.

The king also allocated 60,000 new military jobs, which can be interpreted as a prelude for a plan to reinforce the security forces' hold on the country to quell any anti-regime protests in the future.

"The Saudis, like most Arab peoples, indeed want financial grants, but they also want political reforms."

Qaddafi will have to surrender eventually

Up until 10 days ago, we thought that Col Muammar Qaddafi was done for and that Tripoli was soon to be under the rebels' control, wrote the columnist Abdel Rahman al Rashid in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat.

But, since then, Col Qaddafi's forces have regained lost territories and begun attacking Benghazi, the revolution's capital, prompting the UN Security Council to issue a no-fly-zone resolution. The scene in the upcoming days and months could witness a war larger than what we have seen in the last few weeks, unless Col Qaddafi opts for negotiations that would save his country from impending destruction.  A victory would put him against the world and widen the confrontation.

"We don't know what would be a possible solution for this ever increasing crisis. Such a war would put the Libyan people under the threat of massive suffering."

Unless Col Qaddafi was to take a resilient position that allows for a comprehensive political solution that satisfies the rebels, he will find himself in a difficult bind where negotiation cannot save him. The revolution will not stop, especially given the international support it has managed to attract. Col Qaddafi's regime has many enemies around the world; it would be difficult for him to confront them all and win.

Reforms are crucial to Syria's strength

In his most recent interview last week, the Syrian president was asked about his programme for reforms in light of the present Arab revolutions, to which he answered: "I can't decide on reforms just because a revolution has happened in Tunisia and Egypt."

This is true, comments Amjad Arrar in an opinion article for the Emirati daily Al Khaleej. Democracy, as Bashir al Assad has said before, must be the outcome of the special circumstances of any country according to its culture and political and social progression. But the matter doesn't end there.

"A revolution isn't a new dress we like and decide to order in. It is true that circumstances differ from one country to the other, but what is also true is that circumstances can be similar."

Reforms are essential in Syria. They would strengthen the country against its enemies that target it for its resistance towards Israel. This much-appreciated role can no longer be a pretext for hesitating in launching a comprehensive reform and change process in Syria.

Democracy and freedoms don't conflict with Syria's political positions; on the contrary, they fortify them with popular support. "We hope that the Syrian regime would realise that imprisoning people for opposing political opinions serves none but the regime's enemies.

Amendments to spur democracy in Egypt

As millions of Egyptians headed to the polls yesterday to vote in a referendum about constitutional amendments in their first democratic experience after the revolution, the Emirati daily Al Bayan offered some comments in its editorial.

The importance of amending the article pertaining to the election of the president lies in the fact that it gives direct elective powers to the people and produces a constitution that would answer to the aspirations of the people, not the ruler.

Each and every citizen is entitled to aspire to take part in this democratic change and the key to guarantee the success of change is the absolute refusal of violence as a means to achieve political goals.

The constitutional amendments that are up for a vote are sufficient at the moment to move into the next phase of electing a new parliament, as long as further amendments can be continued after the election of the president.

However, should the amendments be opposed, this would mean a return to square one, which would put the Egyptian people under the mercy of a disabled constitution that cannot claim to preserve the gains and achievements of the revolution.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem