The news that Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi's wife and three of his children found political refuge in neighboring Algeria comes as no surprise given the country's long-standing effort to reaffirm its revolutionary heritage, drawn from 132 years of colonial occupation and nearly eight years of a war of national liberation. Yet this historically-rooted revolutionary struggle was long ago routinized. The resulting bureaucratically defined and elitist directed nationalist myth is intended as much to sustain the political status quo as to serve as an exemplar of peoples' revolt against hegemonic rule, whether foreign imposed or domestically conspired.
Algeria's reluctance to abandon its fellow revolutionary in Libya flows from an outdated yet still dominant ideological frame of reference through which Algeria sees the world and wants to be seen by it. It also reflects an unwillingness to accept the new geopolitical and strategic realities that the Arab Spring has brought to North Africa and the Middle East.
The decision by the U.S. Treasury to freeze the assets of Syrian businessman Mohammad Hamsho and his businesses has sent a strong message to a key part of the pro-Assad business community and opened up new possibilities for pressuring the Syrian regime. The Syrian business community is the key to the survival of Bashar al-Assad. Despite his brutality and widely perceived loss of legitimacy, Assad has not yet lost this critical constituency. The Damascus and Aleppo business establishment is still betting on Assad's political survival, while his crony capitalist regime partners see their fate as tied to his. Unless they change their calculations, Assad may still hold on to power.
Unlike the Egyptian uprisings which started in Egypt's main cities, Cairo and Alexandria, and then spread to the rest of country, the uprisings in Syria started in rural Deraa and then spread to major hubs like Homs and Hama. Mass protests, similar to the ones we have seen in Hama, have not taken place yet in Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. Without these two cities joining the uprisings en masse, the Assad family and their cronies will remain confident that they can withstand the crisis. But the Syrian business community is not a monolith, and has a variety of perspectives on the value of the current regime. What could change their course?
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Since February 11 when Mubarak stepped down, the Supreme Military Council, which has assumed leadership of Egypt's affairs until such time as free elections are held, has repeatedly and thus far unsuccessfully called on Egyptians to "return to work." It has even threatened to take action against striking workers in the name of national security. The civilian middle-class revolutionaries also seem to be insisting that the striking workers "return to work." Even Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in his February 18 Tahrir khutba before hundreds of thousands of Egyptians, urged striking workers to go home, stating that it is impossible for all demands to be met immediately and counselling them to be patient.
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