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The crumbling of Egypt's regime and the amorphous nature of the opposition has left a political vacuum at the heart of the country, and one that may lead to a campaign of violence by any group that sees such action as a route to power.
The army's declaration that troops will not open fire on the people might give the impression that the generals are unified. In fact, they are split into factions, each scrambling for power as the rule of Mr Mubarak's clique implodes.
The power vacuum could trigger anarchy, as happened in the months after the Shah of Iran fell from power in 1979 before the Ayatollah took over.
This scenario will worry the West, which will fear that infighting could drive a wedge through the opposition, provoking bloodshed and a rush to extremism - the kind of Islamic extremism that always promises simple solutions to complex problems.
Egypt's substantial Coptic Christian population is wary, having been the victim of bombing attack on a New Year's day bomb attack on an Alexandria church, which killed 21. The Copts, around 10 per cent of the population, could become identified by extremists as the "enemy within" if the country descends into disorder.
Israel is another factor in the unfolding events. While open war between the two seems unlikely at the moment, Tel Aviv is alarmed by the rapidity with which Mr Mubarak's power has been eroded.