We now have the unprecedented situation of major civil disturbances in two neighbouring Arab countries, both of them arising for similar reasons. (For the latest developments, see below.)
On its own, the trouble in Algeria might not be a particular cause for concern (or celebration, depending on how you look at it). Algeria, after all, has witnessed plenty of violent strife in the past and I wouldn't yet go so far as to characterise the events there (unlike those in Tunisia) as a popular uprising against the regime.
But with large-scale riots and demonstrations now happening simultaneously in two countries side by side, we are moving into uncharted territory. There are signs that the protests in both countries are starting to inspire and sustain those in the other – which could make them far more difficult for the authorities to quell.
It's all looking much more serious than a week ago. Anything could happen now. And maybe it will.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 9 Jan 2011.