Syria's threat perplexes the West

The threat to unleash chemical weapons was well timed and took many by surprise, a commenter notes. Other topics in Arabic media: the reversal of fortune for Israel and the Arab states, and career prospects for Palestinians.

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Syria's chemical weapons threat perplexes the West, but will not immediately alter calculus

While countries that possess weapons of mass destruction would not announce it in public, it came as a surprise that the Syrian regime has admitted having such weapons, and threatened to use them in case of a foreign attack, commented the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

The foreign ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, took the entire world and the regime's enemies in particular, by surprise when he declared possession of chemical weapons and bluntly threatened to use them in case of a foreign attack.

This timing was critical, and so is the threat to use chemical arsenal. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared that his country would be ready to attack Syria to prevent these weapons from falling into the hands of hard-line Islamist groups such as Hizbollah and Al Qaeda. The US repeated the same concerns.

"The Syrian regime sought to send a clear message to Israel and the US that it would use all the weapons it possesses if these two countries were to invade Syria," the newspaper noted.

In other words, the regime says that it will not surrender and raise the white flag, aware that any intervention would topple the regime and bring its figures into trials that would end in the execution of all or most of them.

It is impossible to "say for sure whether the threat to use weapons of mass destruction is a sign of weakness or force. Both are possible," the editorial said.

Over the past three weeks, the Syrian regime has faced extremely hard times. The Syrian opposition fighters took control of border crossings with Turkey and Iraq. They entered major neighbourhoods in Damascus, and more importantly, they penetrated the heart of Syria's power elite, resulting in the killing of four senior leaders.

This suggests times of weakness, no doubt, within the Assad regime.

But the regime troops were fast to retake the rebels-controlled neighbourhoods in Damascus and Aleppo, which might have revived much of the regime's confidence that could further be boosted if it regains control of the border crossings.

The chemical and biological weapons are certainly in a safe place. It is the main deterrent force against Israel, and the regime under no circumstances would throw them away.

There are no certain reports that such weapons are being deployed to Hizbollah, but nothing prevents that from happening. In his last speech, Hassan Nasrallah said most weapons used in the 2006 war with Israel were Syrian-made.

Syria's chemical warfare threat has perplexed both the US and Israel, and their threatening tone has greatly lessened, hence probably the statements of some opposition figures approving of a national unity government led by a member of the regime.

Israel and Arabs head in opposite directions

The best thing about the revolutions that have been sweeping the Arab World is that they shattered the long-standing image of Israel as the sole democracy in the Middle East; a refrain that the Israelis held on to as a pretext to avoid settling the conflict with the Palestinians, said the columnist Satea Noureddine in the Lebanese daily Assafir.

The most important aspect of these revolutions is that they proved that the Arabs are laying the foundations for a serious evolution in their societies, contrary to the Israelis, who are proving that they are headed towards an actual social and state degeneration from the apex of development and modernity they have enjoyed for the past two decades.

A comparison between the current events in the Arab countries that are witnessing a popular struggle for modernity and democracy, and the Israeli society that is experiencing a withdrawal away from the nationalistic and secular Zionist project to the religious and fascist state reveals that a complete inversion has occurred in the course of the Arab and Israeli experiences.

"While the Arabs are building the countries that were handed down to them in shambles from European colonial forces, the Israelis are destroying the state that the same colonial powers have given them," added the writer.

The contrast between the Arab and the Israeli transformations is obvious.

Palestinian students need better guidance

A few days ago, high school exams results were announced in Palestine and thousands of young men and women who have succeeded find themselves at a crossroads, not knowing what university specialisation to select, said the Palestinian daily Al Quds in its editorial.

"Palestinian high schools lack the vital department of professional guidance, despite the dire need for it in a country with many graduates and few job opportunities," said the paper.

Professional guidance officers are equipped to direct students into the specialisations that suit their capabilities best, rather than leaving them to make arbitrary decisions that are often influenced by the expectations of parents and the community.

"If students were left to choose according to these expectations, they would all become doctors, lawyers or engineers. But the job market needs must be the primary deciding factor in higher education choices."

It is imperative to establish a specialised government authority to review market trends in various sectors and come up with an advanced database to be provided for schools.

University studies based on unrealistic expectations and dreams may end up harming the students and eventually the Palestinian economy.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk